French Grand Prix – Red Bull Racing have officially severed ties with long-term engine partner Renault, and will race with Honda power from 2019.
Red Bull Racing have formally announced a swap to Honda power, signing a two year deal with the Japanese manufacturer from the start of 2019.
This marks the end of a long and lucrative partnership between Red Bull & Renault, with the two first working together in 2007. Multiple World Championships were won during the V8 era together, with Sebastian Vettel the beneficiary of four titles while racing with Red Bull. However, the change to the V6 Hybrid era was problematic for Renault, leaving Red Bull uncompetitive and unreliable.
While the relationship between Red Bull & Renault recovered in recent years as the marque slowly made gains to close the gap to benchmark Mercedes, RBR openly courted with other engine suppliers. This resulted in Red Bull opting to agree a sponsorship deal that would remove the Renault name from their cars, resulting in the team running ‘TAG-Heuer’ engines, which are really rebranded Renault units.
Honda, who re-entered Formula 1 in 2015 with McLaren, split with the beleaguered British team after three dismal seasons, signing with Toro Rosso – Red Bull’s junior team. That relationship has been very good so far and, while Honda are not quite up to the standards of the frontrunning Merc or Ferrari engines, they appear to have improved enough to have tempted Red Bull to make the switch. With Renault now a full works team in their own right, there was an obvious desire from Red Bull to develop their own works status with a manufacturer again. This agreement allows them to begin cultivating this. Both Red Bull Racing & Toro Rosso will run with identical specification Honda power units from the start of 2019.
— Honda Racing F1 (@HondaRacingF1) June 19, 2018
“Having established a good relationship with Scuderia Toro Rosso, we have decided to extend our Formula One involvement to the other team in the Red Bull family, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, as from the 2019 season. Having two teams means we can access twice as much data as previously. We believe that working with both Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing will allow us to get closer to our goal of winning races and Championships, building two strong partnerships. Discussions proceeded very quickly, thanks to Red Bull’s open and respectful attitude towards Honda, leading to a deal that is fair and equitable for all parties.” Takahiro Hachigo, President of Honda Motor Co.
Team boss Christian Horner said that the decision to switch was made recently, and that the partnership should elevate Red Bull back to being true frontrunners: “We have always taken decisions such as this dispassionately and with only one criteria in mind – do we believe the outcome will allow us to compete at a higher level. After careful consideration and evaluation we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team. We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso, and by the scope of their ambition, which matches our own. We look forward to working with Honda in the coming years and to racing together in pursuit of F1’s “biggest prizes.”
It’s not yet clear what impact, if any, this may have on the driver’s market. Daniel Ricciardo remains unsigned for next year and the change of engine supplier to one that is not yet proven in the current formula may tempt him to go for a safer bet, should there be one available to him at Mercedes or Ferrari. Max Verstappen remains under contract for next season.
Renault issued a short statement following the announcement, expressing their pride at what they achieved alongside Red Bull over the last decade:
“Two years after Renault’s return as a works team, we consider this is a natural evolution for both Renault and Red Bull Racing in view of their respective aspirations.
In an extremely demanding and competitive environment we are proud of the extraordinary results achieved with Red Bull Racing over the past 12 seasons, in particular, the four Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships and 57 wins we have taken together.
After two seasons, we are fully focused on the strong progression of Renault Sport Formula One Team, while continuing to foster the fresh relationship with McLaren Racing.”