It’s telling that on tracks where outright horsepower has been less of a factor in 2018, Red Bull have often been the team to beat. But following the squad’s protracted divorce from Renault and their committal to run Honda power in 2019, Team Principal Christian Horner restated his belief that, if the Japanese firm can continue their trend of improvement from this season, Red Bull could look to take the fight to Ferrari and Mercedes consistently next year for the first time in Formula 1’s post-2014 hybrid era.
It’s a conventionally-held wisdom in the F1 paddock that Red Bull have one of, if not, the best chassis on the grid in terms of mechanical grip and aero performance, something which is borne out by the team’s comfortable winning performances at the twisty Monaco and high-altitude Mexico circuits this year.
Despite that, Red Bull have often found themselves as the third-best of the front-running teams – behind Mercedes and Ferrari – at power-dependent tracks such as Silverstone and Russia this season, with the horsepower deficit of their Renault power units frequently cited by the team as their limiting factor.
Conversely, Honda’s increase in performance this year in their first season with Toro Rosso has been notable, with Pierre Gasly having celebrated a season-high for the team of fourth at the Bahrain Grand Prix – one place higher than the best result Honda managed during their unhappy three-season tie-up with McLaren – while glimpses of the performance of Honda’s latest-spec power unit have been encouraging.
It’s been enough to convince Horner that, if the upward trend can continue, Honda can help Red Bull find their way back to properly competing for constructors’ championship glory for the first time since 2013.
“We know we have a great team, we know we have a great car, we have great drivers,” said Horner following Max Verstappen’s win at the Mexican Grand Prix. “Even with Daniel (Ricciardo) leaving next year, we have Gasly coming in who is growing and growing. And if we can just get that bit more horsepower to get us close to the bracket of Mercedes and Ferrari, then we can give them a tough time… We can see what the team are capable of with the chassis.”