Christian Horner says grid penalties are planned this season as Red Bull wants Honda to keep bringing through performance gains during the year.
Red Bull’s supply deal with Renault came to an end in 2018, with this year the first of its new partnership with Honda. The Japanese manufacturer had struggled since returning to Formula 1 in 2015 with McLaren, but after encouraging signs with Toro Rosso last year has continued to make progress this season and after an upgrade in Azerbaijan Horner says he’s happy with the approach the partnership is taking.
“I think it has been positive,” Horner said. “They (Honda) have had a strong race, and then we could run the engine a little bit harder in the race as well. So yeah, it’s all part of that evolution.
“There were no issues with the previous engine that we have, so they’ll be used on Fridays. We were always planning this year to take more than three engines. It’s part of that — for them to catch up they’ve got to push the boundaries, which is exactly what they’re doing.”
With Max Verstappen finishing fourth in each of the last three races since a podium in the opening grand prix in Australia, Horner is confident Red Bull and Honda have reduced the gap to the front-runners since the start of 2019 — which he says bodes well for some of the upcoming races when F1 returns to Europe for the Spanish and Monaco rounds.
“I think we closed the gap since the beginning of the year. In Melbourne we had a strong race — I think Max was pushing Lewis (Hamilton) for the majority of that grand prix. Bahrain was a tough race for us but I think actually exposed some things that we’ve managed to improve since then.
“Then China (was) a stronger race, and then again (in Baku), even more so, at a track that doesn’t historically play to our strengths. So I think we’re looking forward to heading back to Europe now — a few circuits coming up that hopefully should suit us.”
Verstappen currently sits fourth in the drivers’ championship, one point behind Sebastian Vettel and 36 adrift of championship leader Valtteri Bottas.