Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, Silverstone, 2018

Red Bull admit Honda and Renault engine power is “very similar”

2018 British Grand Prix

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Red Bull’s future Formula 1 engine supplier Honda is at a “very similar” level of performance to their current partner Renault, according to team principal Christian Horner.

During the British Grand Prix weekend Red Bull driver Max Verstappen claimed their power shortfall was costing the team a second per lap on the straights. However Pierre Gasly of Honda-powered sister team Toro Rosso gave a similar estimate of how much time they were losing in a straight line.

Asked by RaceFans if he was concerned their coming switch of engine supplier would not offer an immediate improvement in performance, Horner said he expects Honda to make greater progress than Renault.

“I think that you can see the situation between the engines is very similar at the moment,” he said. “It’s all about the potential development.

“This weekend’s been a very tough weekend for Renault. It just very clearly defines where the level is at. You can’t hide behind the statistics of what we’ve seen this weekend.

“So there is a gap to fill and hopefully in Honda… we have a lot of belief in what they have coming in the pipeline.”

Horner indicated Renault has made little progress in reducing its performance deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari. “We were just hugely exposed today in both defence and attack,” he said.

“You could see at the restart with Kimi [Raikkonen] it was a bit like Mexico 2015 even, the amount of additional power [they had]. At the second restart he had a moment at Stowe yet was still all over Max into turns two and three.

“And unfortunately for Daniel [Ricciardo] he just couldn’t attack Valtteri [Bottas] while having a superior tyre and grip and performance. He just couldn’t, even with the DRS open, was still dropping back.”

Ricciardo is yet to commit to the team for the 2019 F1 season following the announcement they will use Honda engines next year. Horner said he has “explained the rationale behind the changes that we’ve made” to his driver.

“The reality is it’s time for change. We’ve been doing the same thing year after year. We’re seeing real progress with Honda and it just feels the right time in our evolution to be going a different route.”

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55 comments on “Red Bull admit Honda and Renault engine power is “very similar””

  1. When you look at the progress McLaren and Toro Rosso made over the winter gives the impression that Honda was lagging early on, but now matches Renault on pace and bhp. It is now a matter of reliability and progress.

    I’m starting to believe that Red Bull made the right step. Trading a customer engine for a similar works engine and working closely with Toro Rosso seems the way to go.

    1. I think it isn’t quite that simple and Horner is probably aware of that.

      For example it appeared this weekend that the ferrari engined teams had a power advantage over the mercedes. This is because the Ferrari MGU-H is more effective at generating battery power. Over a shorter lap or a lap where it’s easy to harvest battery power with the MGU-K (lots of braking) this doesnt have too much of an impact and just balances out mercedes slightly more powerful ICE but Silverstone is a long lap with few heavy braking points and huge amount of full throttle so it’s the track where this difference is largest.

      I think the Renault obviously still has the edge in all of the categories (ICE, MGU-H, MGU-K) because if it didn’t horner would just flat out say it was better and not ‘very similar’. But the difference is obviously much less than last year and Honda seems to have improved their reliability a lot.

      Honda are certainly pouring more resources into development than Renault which should bear fruit. But it depends on if they improved their working practices. I don’t know the future but I imagine next season both engines being pretty much the same as each other but still behind (but a little less so) the mercedes and ferrari. So this decision is more long term in terms of possible impact.

    2. @matthijs I am still quite skeptical. No denying Honda took a big step forward this season. But it’s clear that they were holding Mclaren back massively. I still think Honda has the worst PU in F1 by some margin. Red Bull made a gamble that made sense. It’s the same gamble that Mclaren took but with a lot less risk.

  2. McLaren had high hopes for Honda as well…..

    Poor Danny Ric could possibly go down in history as yet another great driver who never got an opportunity to drive a championship winning car.

    1. @homerlovesbeer the fact is that the number of drivers who have solid opportunities to win the WDC is very low. I’m checking the list and since 1994 we had:

      – Michael Schumacher (7) Benetton, Ferrari
      – Damon Hill (1) Williams
      – Jacques Villeneuve (1) Williams
      – Mika Hakkinen (2) McLaren
      – Fernando Alonso (2) Renault
      – Kimi Raikkonen (1) Ferrari
      – Lewis Hamilton (4) McLaren, Mercedes
      – Jenson Button (1) Brawn
      – Sebastian Vettel (4) Red Bull
      – Nico Rosberg (1) Mercedes

      So just 10 winners in 24 years, 5 of them multiple winners, but the most important thing is that we only had 5 teams, or their evolution (Benetton/Renault, Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Brawn/Mercedes) winning. More or less, each year there was just a couple teams candidate to win and this couple stays the same for some years. Looking at the winners, you see that Michael, Fernando, Jenson, Lewis and Seb, all entered the team at the right moment when it was starting a new wave of successes. So, the window is very very narrow: in a 15 years carreer there can be 6-7 different WDC and even less WCC. I’m sure that in these 24 years a lot of driver, given the right car, would be able to take the Championship home. They simply hadn’t a chance.

      Back to our Honey Badger: I think his chances are low, but the best shot could be with Renault. If Renault is serious about winning, than I think that in this F1 era a single manufacturer for both chassis and engine is better than someone like RB who doesn’t manufacture his engine, even if it has priority treatment from Honda.

      Ferrari and Mercedes seats are just locked for the foreseable future, with Vettel and LeClerc in red and Hamilton in silver. Maybe he can wait a bit, a couple of years contract with Renault or a single year extension with RB: if – touching wood – Ferrari will start a stretch of wins I don’t see Lewis fighting for too long; a prime seat can be then free for him. But anyway, I fear that at Red Bull he’ll receive maybe not a second driver treatment but always a bit worse treatment than enfant prodige Verstappen.

      1. @m-bagattini – nice stats about the past winners.

        And Ricciardo will still be hot property, just not in 2018, so your suggestion of a brief extension with RBR or maybe a short stint at Renault makes sense. I think he must reconcile himself to the fact that it is unlikely he’ll be in championship-winning machinery for the next two years, and keep himself open for 2021/2022 when all the new regulations take hold.

        1. @homerlovesbeer @m-bagattini @phylyp
          Great post Matteo, does show how hard it is to win a WDC doesn’t it?? (Matteo- are you a famous Italian barista by any chance, I saw one on social media and thought it was you :)

          Dan Ric is a great driver and while I hope he gets a title it seems you have to time it right. Hamilton is now being considered up there with the best of all time yet if he didn’t make the switch to Mercedes that wouldn’t be so. Not to bag Lewis at all but F1 records seem to dictate who is “a great” but even Max said this week every driver on the grid could have won in the past 4 years in a Mercedes. I don’t particularly agree that with ‘every driver’ but he makes a good point.

      2. Then there are the drivers who came close but did not become WDC despite driving for a top team: Irvine, Coulthard, Barrichello, Montoya, Massa and Webber.
        Coulthard never came very close, but that was largely due to a whole string of engine failures.

        Renault is not going to make a better car than Red Bull does and I very much doubt their 2019 engine will be better than Honda’s. His best bet is to stay with Red Bull. If the team favors one driver it does not show up in race strategy; rather, they seem to go at great lengths to prevent favoritism of one driver, down to predetermining the pit release order before the weekend, swapping it at every race so both drivers benefit equally. As Daniel found out in Austria when he chose to ignore the order; he is not the number 2 driver, but he isn’t number 1 either.

        1. They alternate but they don’t usually go out together. I don’t recall a single time that Max has been expected to give Danny Rick a tow.

        2. And among these, the only one I can remember of delivering a proper campaign of a champion was Massa.

      3. @m-bagattini:

        Michael, Fernando, Jenson, Lewis and Seb, all entered the team at the right moment when it was starting a new wave of successes

        I agree with most of what you’ve said, but I have to take issue with some of this.

        Michael Schumacher joined Benetton in 1991 and won his first two world championships in 1994 and 1995. In 1996 he moved to a struggling Ferrari which he helped to build into a championship-winning team, but didn’t win another championship until 2000. I don’t know what happened at Benetton, but he certainly didn’t enter Ferrari “at the right moment when it was starting a new wave of successes”.

        Jenson Button joined Honda in 2006. When Honda withdrew at the end of 2008 he was kept on by Brawn but took a big pay cut. So technically he joined the Brawn team at just the right moment, but he had already been with the same team under a different name for three seasons.

        If your point is that you have to be in the right place at the right time then I agree; maybe I’m just being picky about wording ;-)

        1. The MS/Ferrari move was orchestrated by Max and Bernie to create a new chapter post-Senna. Most people forget to ask themselves why MS would move away from where he was winning and was still under contract, to go to a team that hadn’t won a WDC in 16 years. Answer: a mega deal created for him to move him away from the highly controversial Benetton Championships, with crew, including a contracted subservient teammate, to end the Ferrari Championship drought as per Max and Bernie’s desires. MS’s move to Ferrari was only timely because F1 creates a chapter rather than letting one just unfold, and threw more resources his way, and for the next decade, than any other driver has ever received before or since.

          1. @robbie
            Good point, F1 needed the new Mega Star in a Mega Team, and while Ferrari certainly weren’t the mega team at the time Michael could see the vision……… and a truck load of money!
            He got away with the 1994 win with the dodgy Benneton but the legacy Schumi created at Ferrari was amazing really.

          2. @garns Point being MS didn’t create the legacy, Max and Bernie did. Many drivers could have compiled the same numbers MS did with all the advantages he was handed.

          3. @robbie

            Most people forget to ask themselves why MS would move away from where he was winning and was still under contract, to go to a team that hadn’t won a WDC in 16 years

            Most people forget that Ferrari’s offer to Micheal was insane. Giovanni Agnelli was saying that “Ci è costato come un tozzo di pane. Ma con molto caviale !” (He did cost us like a piece of bread but with a lot of caviar)
            He was earning around 60,000£ a day, that’s 22 million £ a year, even today and without taking inflation into account, only Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso earn more money than Micheal was earning 20 years ago. I don’t say that he went for money but that’s a valid reason to consider moving to a team that haven’t won the WDC in 16 years.

          4. @tifoso1989 I seem to recall at the time it was practically National news, not just sports news, that MS overnight became the highest paid athlete in the world when endorsements are included. Higher than Michael Jordan at the time. Somewhere around the $100 mill US a year mark. No wonder both Michaels became billionaires.

        2. As for Michael, it’s true that he didn’t cliched the WDC until 2000 but his chances improved over time: as you said, Ferrari was in a very poor condition, he started with 3 wins in 96 then progressively increased to 5, 6 and 2 more before breaking his leg(s?) in 99, which could have been his very first WDC win for Maranello (Ferrari took the WCC, with Irvine just a couple of points behind Hakkinen).

          Good point for Jenson: I remember the Brawn -> Mercedes evolution but I forgot about the origin of Brawn.

          1. @robbie
            Same numbers as MS? I did mention above driver become ‘great’ as they get the great drive at the right time, so pop quiz, which driver could have got the same/close results in that golden era?

            Robbie- your first right of reply. I would say Mika an obvious candidate as he was as good as MS in my opinion.

            But good point Bernie and Max drove the legacy, then Michael drove the car! I think when BE said back in the day “And HE will drive for you next year” it had more pull, even to the great Ferrari!

          2. Lol ya Mika for sure, but really any of the WDC’s from around that time but also some non-WDCers that just didn’t have the right break. Give many of today’s drivers as well a designer car, eventually a dominant one, on designer tires with the tire maker at your own private track where you do unlimited testing, and throw in a teammate under contract to not give you one minutes’ lost sleep, and you can see why I have never gotten excited over MS, who still needed to be a bully on top of everything else going his way. Throw in some rules moulded so that in his dominant car he only had to pass people through pit strategies not actually on the track. The other side of the coin for me from what Max and Bernie did was that I was left feeling MS didn’t do anything great…just what was expected with all the advantages he was given.

          3. @m-bagattini

            Good point for Jenson: I remember the Brawn -> Mercedes evolution but I forgot about the origin of Brawn.

            Honda abandoned their plans to run the F1 team towards the end of year, and Ross Brawn orchestrated an Management Buyout with a token money and with help of a few investors and created Brawn GP as a holding company. The intent was to save the employees jobs and the F1 license, with potential investors willing to help if they are unable to sell the team.

          4. @robbie I think you aren’t being fair to schumacher, perhaps you forget that in the period between 1994 and 2006, excluding 2 years with cars well off the pace (96 and 05 ferrari), you had to beat schumacher to win the title.

            If schumacher hadn’t been there, perhaps drivers like hill or hakkinen or raikkonen would’ve won more titles.

            Perhaps even coulthard or montoya could’ve got one.

            My point being he was by far the best of his era, even taking into account the advantages he had, and you’d need a true great to achieve THAT much, not just a random driver.

            Of recent drivers, I think only alonso and hamilton currently proved to be good enough that given the chances schumacher had, they could’ve got similar results, perhaps even vettel, I don’t see him as much inferior to hamilton, and ofc drivers like verstappen or leclerc could well be added to that list, but I don’t think “anyone could’ve done it” like you said.

          5. @esploratore I haven’t said anyone could have done it, but that many could have, given the same advantages. I think you are using the luxury of hindsight and claiming MS is a great therefore it would have taken special people to do the same as he did. Several other drivers, given the advantages Max and Bernie set him up with, would now be considered amongst the greats, for they would have compiled similar record breaking numbers. I don’t consider MS among the true greats because he needed a designer car and tires and a teammate actually under contract to not compete against him, as well as unlimited testing, and rules moulded for him to not have to actually pass cars. And he still felt the need to be a bully on top of that. For MS to have a dominant car and yet have the one driver on the grid who had the equipment to compete against him not allowed to compete, robbed us of racing in the pinnacle of racing, and made MS’s life immeasurably easier. That’s why for me the other side of the Mac/Bernie/MS/Ferrari coin is that they got the numbers, the records, the Ferrari WDC drought ended, but the cost was that they sold out to do it, and I’ll never believe MS did anything that wasn’t expected given all the advantages.

      4. JungleMartin
        10th July 2018, 12:57

        You forgot those who had a solid opportunity to win the WDC but didn’t quite make it, e.g. Eddie Irvine (1999), Felipe Massa, Mark Webber.

      5. I think he should go to renault. I think currently he matches ves because ves is young and hot headed, i think ves has ultimate pace on him and if he stays at red bull he will become the webber to ves’ vettel assuming RBR/honda can come good. Ferrari isnt really an option, Vettel wont want him because ric is probably a little faster than vettel and they have le clerc anyway. Mercedes probably do want him, not sure that door has entirely closed yet, he’d certainly be an improvement over Bottas, depends if it would destabilise Hamilton and if they care that it would.
        In renault he has a good (though not total) chance of besting Hulk and like you say they are one of the 5 teams in F1 who might win a championship over the next 5 years.

    2. @homerlovesbeer
      To be honest, I feel more sorry for Hulkenberg than DannyRic.

      1. @niefer: To be honest, I don’t feel sorry for either.

        They get paid millions to drive billion dollar go-karts. Every current and past driver have lived the F1 dream. Winning a championship is just a little extra champagne on the caviar.

        1. Yup that’s why I struggle with the likes of LH and his sulky pity me attitude.

  3. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    10th July 2018, 10:38

    Its either going to be a masterstroke or a disaster with not much in between. Like they’re either going to hail in a new era of domination or it’ll fail so hard it’ll push both Red Bull/Toro Rosso out of the sport entirely.

    1. I disagree. It can be something in between your two scenarios and imho likely will be. We’ll just have to see a 2019 Honda Pu integrated with a Newey 2019 RBR car, and give them some allowance for it being a new marriage, and I’m sure they will either be slightly behind or slightly ahead of where they are now, and I lean more toward slightly behind, because these things take time, and F1 is hard.

      I’m envisioning a season next year rife with daily headlines about whether RBR regrets their decision or not, with the team constantly having to say they don’t because with Renault they were never going to breach third place anyway. And that won’t stop the meddlers constantly poking them with the same question every time a Renault powered car beats them.

  4. What is so special about Mexico 2015 grand prix?

    Customary McLaren rant below:
    McLaren felt that the top 3 engines were at a similar level and Honda was below. But Red Bull is saying that it is a top 2 and bottom 2 kind of situation.
    This clearly shows that McLaren overestimated the difference between Honda and Renault (and by extension over estimated the awesomeness of their chassis). Which is why they were confident that they would challenge Red Bull.
    So any McLaren fan still claiming that the 2017 chassis was genuinely world-beating should accept defeat. McLaren have made bas chassis throughout the hybrid era.

    1. Mclaren could even finish with that engine. Still TR has the worst problems with reliability. Also many things changed in aero rules from last year. Of course mclaren exaggerated about their chassis but it wasnt bad like this year’s chassis.

      1. The 2017 Honda engine was terrible, the Mclarens were sitting targets on long straights, it was the good chassis that enabled them to catch up on opponents at the corners to stay within DRS and get a pull along the straights. Im thinking Alonso at Brazil 2017 as an example. He spent most of the race catching up on Massa in sector 2 to then use DRS to hold the position from faster cars. McLarens 2018 issue is they screwed up their car design, being unable to corolate the real data with the wind/simulator data. Cant design any new parts without knowing if they’ll work.

    2. I think it more speaks to the progress Honda made since the start of 2017. That engine was less powerful than the 2016 version (which was a decent gap to renault) and very unreliable. Honda have made a lot of progress over the last year but then, they really should have too. I think since early 2017 renault have made relatively little progress, their reliability is better, they finally released some ICE and the MGU-K upgrade but it has only really been enough to tread water vs ferrari or gain slightly vs mercedes.

    3. Why do you automatically believe that Horner and Red Bull are being honest?

      All evidence says otherwise, from performance to reliability.

      Christian has now publicly pulled the trigger on the Honda deal, & within just two races of doing so, Toro Rosso have suffered a number of PU failures, & they lead driver has complained about his engine being slow in a straight line.
      What you are seeing from RBR is PR machine speak … from Christian and Max, & while I respect both of them for their racing abilities and knowledge, they are poor politicians.

  5. @Sumedh ”What is so special about Mexico 2015 grand prix?”
    – Nothing, he was just referring to how easily Kimi one of his drivers (at the moment, I can’t recall whether it was Ricciardo or Kvyat) on the rolling re-start after the SC-period caused by Vettel in that race.

    1. It was Bottas overtaking Kvyat.

  6. So, RB and TR chassis are equally good?

  7. Honestly, Honda are pretty close to Renault right now. But that shouldn’t fill anyone with confidence that Honda will close the gap to the front runners.

    Honda were pretty close to Renault in 2016 as well, and then they took ten step backwards in 2017. In 2018, Honda seemed to have improved more than Renault again, but there’s every possibility they move ten step backwards next season and take Red Bull out of contention for race wins and podium for at least a couple of seasons.

    This is why Red Bull has signed just a 2 year contract with them. They know it’s a decision that could easily make their current situation worse than it is.

    1. @todfod

      Honda were pretty close to Renault in 2016 as well, and then they took ten step backwards in 2017.

      Yes but in 2017 Honda had a complete re-design of their engine and layout. McLaren/Alonso needed to show more patience and in retrospect a LOT more humility now that they have been found out about their ‘best chassis on the grid’.

      1. McLaren/Alonso needed to show more patience and in retrospect a LOT more humility


        Glad to see Honda finally partnered up with a team which will be patient and humble with it’s engine partner.

        1. @todfod

          HAHA, well there IS that!

    2. At least Honda seems to be moving backward and forward season by season, race by race. Implies they are at least trying.

      McLaren on the other hand have made consistently sub-par chassis each year. The only thing that has changed with McLaren is whom to put the blame to. 2013 was towards their ‘new concept’. 2014 was towards Mercedes not giving them software / oils. 2025 to 2017 was towards Honda. 2018 is now towards the rules banning monkey seat and halo.

      1. So tell us the reasons. You seem to know better than everyone else.

      2. By your completely flawed logic even Mclaren have been ‘trying’. They moved from 2nd quickest in 2011, to quickest in 2012, to 4th quickest in 2013, 5th quickest in 2014, etc.

        I’m tired of people using Mclaren’s poor 2018 chassis as justification for them apparently designing poor chassis from 2015 to 2017.

        If you really want to prove your point, why don’t you analyse Mclaren’s performance on chassis dependant circuits vs power unit dependant circuits from the 2015 to 2017 seasons and see where the fault really lies. I’d love to see what you come up with.

    3. @todfod I don’t disagree, but just a couple of thoughts. I’d like to think that now that Honda has been at this for this long, they’re past taking ten steps backwards. Also, I’m not sure that RBR think sitting third in the WCC ad infinitum is a situation that can get any worse. Sure an odd win here or there, including with the help of attrition of others, is nice, but if it’s never going to amount to anything more than that…?

      They know their future with Renault, and for now they can just hope that Honda comes through, and why not? What have they really got to lose?

      1. @robbie

        Agree. Red bull are in a situation where they are certain they aren’t going to fight for the WDC with Renault power. Honda are a bit of a gamble, either they might improve and give them a better chance to fight or they might get worse and not put them in a championship position anyways. Red bull feel they can have more input at least so its worth taking a risk.

        My only point was just because Honda has improved more than Renault this season doesn’t necessarily mean they will repeat it next year. Honda is more than capable of dropping the ball. Which is also why Red bull have played it partially safe and gone for a 2 year contract.

        1. @todfod Agree, for sure there is no guarantee of Honda improving as much next year, but then I try not to think of it anymore as just Honda having to improve their offering. The marriage itself, the combining of Newey’s car and Honda’s Pu as one unit is what is going to tell the tale. It’s up to how well they integrate the two, as that is the very essence to success these days and the very reason they felt they needed a closer relationship than they’ve been having with Renault.

          It was only a small number of weeks ago, just ahead of Horner’s Honda announcement, that on here I was urging RBR to stick it out with Renault for one more year as they are reasonably competitive with them right now and it would give Honda one more year under their belt and with STR to boot, for RBR to observe. It was within all that Horner said as to why they’ve decided on Honda, that I felt much better about their decision. It’s going to be fascinating to see unfold.

    4. Fair point but let’s not forget that Renault too was awful in 2017 after looking a bit more promising in 2016.

      The difference is that Honda are actually working at improving performance whereas Renault seem pretty much unconcerned by their deficit (and probably don’t care much until their chassis gets much much better)

  8. It is much easier for honda to get on renault’s level than it is for honda or renault to get in mercedes’ or ferrari’s level. The last bits of performance are the hardest, most expensive and take the most amount of time and experience. It would be great for f1 if honda and renault go their act together but so far it looks all the future championships will be 2 way between ferrari and mercedes.

    1. You might alternatively say that it is easier for Honda to get on the MB/Ferrari level than for Renault. That would be because a new design is not necessarily as hemmed in by a legacy of design choices and engineering approaches that cannot be undone without starting from scratch.

      That said, Honda may be a bad example because their approach seemed to be so idiosyncratic and rigid and inflexible they the did not capture the advantages of the “second mover,” as they say in economics. I just recall the Amazon show and them trying (and failing) to start the engine for the first time remotely from Japan, and then having to give up and do it manually in Woking. Honda seemed to want to do everything the hard way because it happened to be the Honda way. But maybe they have seen their errors and change the approach.

  9. Horner said he expects Honda to make greater progress than Renault.

    He means to say Hoping Honda to make greater progress than Renault.

  10. HAHAHAHAHA According to Christian Horner.

    1. …who is informed by some of the best engineers in the business. No coincidence that red bull are Great at everything in f1 except power units.

  11. Im glad to see some people see the truth. That michael schumacher yes a very very good driver and statistically on paper the most successful but not the wonder miracle maker people make him out to be. He did not design the car. It was engineers. He had partner who could not race against him. Give credit where its due but lets not exaggerate. Unless in the same breathe we can say once lewis went to Mercedes he turned that team around…lewis should be hailed as the greatest of this generation…but realistically it was a team effort.

  12. Archit (@architjain07)
    11th July 2018, 13:50

    “Admit” is the wrong word! RBR claims that both engines are similar as we don’t know the numbers! Shouldn’t expect anything different since it will be RBR-Honda next year! Won’t be surprised if they say Honda has more power than Renault by the end of season!

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