Words: Craig Alderson
Photos: Charles Coates/Getty Images
If you follow the Missed Apex Twitter account you may have noticed that this week some information was revealed regarding Red Bull Racing’s power unit decision for 2019.
There has been much speculation ever since Toro Rosso, the Red Bull junior team, took on Honda’s engine supply for this year. Would the senior team follow suit after their current Renault deal expires?
Since April, various media sources have been reporting that Honda and Red Bull Racing are talking about a possible engine deal, in effect making Red Bull the works Honda team. Certainly it is obvious that Red Bull are assessing the performance of the new Honda power unit, advantaged by its unique position of owning both teams.
Several publications have recently claimed that the bosses from Red Bull had planned to use the Canadian Grand Prix as a direct comparison between Renault and Honda, but in truth it appears that the decision may have already provisionally been made.
It must be stressed that this should be still considered rumour, but Missed Apex Podcast understands that the deal had in fact already been signed between Red Bull and Honda, as early as the Monaco GP weekend.
Key to the preliminary contract agreement signed in Monaco; a clause enabling Red Bull to pull out should the Honda upgrades for Canada not perform as expected. Both parties have obvious reasons as to why this hugely important agreement hasn't been made public as yet.
Firstly Red Bull are still contracted to use Renault power units, but also Honda would not like to be seen to fail a top team yet again should the Canadian Grand Prix upgrade not deliver the required performance and reliability. It is clear that working with a low profile team such as Toro Rosso takes the heat off Honda (unlike working with McLaren!), so this type of methodical planning and deal making can occur unhindered.
Renault are unaware of this, officially, but of course suspect that Honda are in with the serious shout with Red Bull from the rhetoric we've heard in the media, particularly during the build up to the Canadian Grand Prix. Veiled threats on whether the new upgraded Renault power unit would be supplied to their former number 1 team for the race in Montreal. But also the hurry up issued by Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul on Red Bull’s final decision on engine supply. A hurry up that prompted a sharp and telling response from Helmut Marko.
The good news for F1 fans is that there has been an obvious step increase in performance and reliability of the Honda power unit in Canada, proven by Brendon Hartley qualifying 12th. His team mate Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, was forced to replace his engine due to a problem before qualifying, resorting to the previous, lower power specification. The Frenchman only managed to qualify in 16th spot, nearly half a second slower than Hartley who himself was only a second off the pole time of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Must be noted that Hartley qualified ahead of both McLaren Renaults in Canada.
It really is a shame we never saw the true race potential of the upgraded Honda power unit after the unfortunate ‘coming together’ of Williams’ Lance Stroll and Brendon Hartley. But the numbers are looking good enough for Red Bull Racing, so expect to hear an announcement very soon should this rumour come true.