Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the indicators are that Honda has had a strong winter of power unit development and will help the team progress compared to 2018.
Last season saw Red Bull pick up four victories during its final year in partnership with Renault before switching to Honda in 2019, but the team was unable to challenge the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari on a number of circuits. Horner says the aim is to be competitive on a wider range of tracks this year, and he is happy with the progress Red Bull has seen from the Japanese manufacturer during the off-season.
“I think they’ve had a strong winter,” Horner said. “Red Bull Technology have been working with Honda for 12 months now having supplied the gearbox and drivetrain solution for Toro Rosso. So we’ve seen behind the scenes their evolution and they’re making good progress.
“I think stability of regulations will help them. They have settled on a concept that for the first time since their re-entry into Formula 1 has continued from one season to the next without it being a completely clean sheet of paper. It will all depend on what the others have done, but certainly versus themselves there’s been good progress.
“Obviously it’s a huge challenge to do 21 races on three engines. We would rather see consistent evolution, and if that means taking a penalty or two along the way, as we saw last year the impact of those penalties at the right venue can be fairly minimal. So long as the progress and trajectory is on the right way, there’s a lot of optimism within the team, within the factory, and excitement about working in collaboration with a new partner.”
And Horner says there will not be the same level of frustration if Red Bull has a similar year to 2018 — when the team suffered a number of retirements due to reliability — because of the way it is collaborating with Honda.
“I think it’s a very different scenario. The last five years — obviously we were with Renault for 12 years — and particularly the last three have been very much a customer and supplier relationship where effectively we’ve been paying for a first class ticket and you get an economy seat. An awful lot of frustration has borne out of that, and the management within Renault has been different to what it was when we started the relationship.
“So I think with Honda, it being a true technical partnership, there’s much more collective responsibility from both sides rather than being a customer-supplier scenario. We’re not expecting to go to 100% clean sheet of paper but what we are extremely hopeful of is that the performance will be a step from where we’ve been in the last few years.”