1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve feels that the Honda and Toro Rosso partnership may end up in tears like the McLaren-Honda partnership. From 2018 onwards, Toro Rosso and Honda will begin a 3-year partnership. As part of their arrangement, McLaren received $100 million per year. But there won’t be a similar cash flow into Toro Rosso next season. Instead, Honda will provide free engines for the Red Bull junior team.
However, Villeneuve isn’t convinced that it will work. The Canadian was part of a works Honda programme with BAR from 2000-03. He argued that even free engines would not make up for the problems that Honda are facing.
“It’s like when teams start taking slow pay drivers. Two years later, they are dead. You have to be careful. McLaren survived it because it’s McLaren. Now we’re talking Toro Rosso. It’s a big gamble, unless someone else makes the engine and Honda puts its name on it, which is possible I guess.”
He said he couldn’t understand why Toro Rosso opted to go for Honda even though it was clear to everyone that they were struggling. Honda were reportedly unwilling to let a rival manufacturer build an engine and have it rebadged as a Honda engine.
Why the McLaren Marriage failed
Unreliability and a lack of performance were the core reasons for the split. Villeneuve was even asked if Honda would improve next season and his answer was curt. He said “Why? Have we seen anything to suggest they can? They need a new engine. The whole project was started wrong. It needs to be a full change. If you take a small team like Toro Rosso, it makes it even more difficult.”