The Red Bull Racing team will be keeping a very keen eye on Honda and Toro Rosso in 2018. As it turns out, Red Bull could switch to Honda engines for 2019. After a nasty war of words with current partner Renault, The Austrian marquee and the French manufacturer will end their supply deal at the end of next year.
Ferrari and Mercedes have flatly refused to supply Red Bull. On paper, Red Bull joining Toro Rosso with Honda power in 2019 was a no brainer. The only condition was that the Japanese engine show sufficient improvement next season. But now it seems that the Milton Keynes team’s hand has been forced.
Rumours said that Renault and Red Bull had agreed on and extended deal for 2019 and 2020. But now the deal is in the process of being cancelled by the former as part of the fallout of Toro Rosso’s divorce from Renault for 2018. So Red Bull are out of options and have to agree to a Honda deal sooner rather than later.
A Red Bull-Renault divorce after just one more season was inevitable. They were forced into an uneasy marriage with the engine branded as TAG Heuer. A Red Bull-Honda deal makes perfect sense as it expands on the relationship that the two companies share in MotoGP, creating obvious marketing opportunities.
In Toro Rosso’s case, the deal is likely to be worth a lot of money to Red Bull as it will no longer be paying for its engines. They will likely receive funding from Honda on top, which means that Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz’s financial commitment will be substantially reduced.
Red Bull also have the option of keeping its TAG Heuer sponsorship, albeit not on the engine. Now the burning question will be on Honda’s potential form in 2019, even allowing for some improvement over the course of next season. As part of a long-term strategy, Red Bull remains linked to the potential arrival of Porsche in 2021. In other words, its deal with Honda may last for just two seasons, potentially leaving Toro Rosso on its own again.
If confirmed, the news will also be of considerable interest to Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, both of whom are on the market for 2019. The likelihood is that they will now accelerate the process of looking for alternative seats, with opportunities currently available at both Mercedes and Ferrari.