Christian Horner says Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s relationship with Honda is already stronger than its recent one with Renault, as they plan for their new partnership with the Japanese engine supplier in 2019.
Horner, the team principal of Red Bull, admits the affiliation with Renault has been increasingly strained across the last few seasons, particularly when the French engine supplier returned to the sport as a works team, and it was clear that they needed to escape their customer status with them, which brought them to Honda.
“It already is way stronger. It is far more integrated,” Horner is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com of the relationship with Honda. “The last few years, it has been a very difficult relationship [with Renault], a strained relationship.
“It is a very different relationship because rather than as a paying customer, it is a true partnership and technical partnership. Through our entire career with Renault we’ve always been a customer.
“Around 2011-12, at the peak of the exhaust blowing, the integration between chassis and engine was very strong. That has been diluted during 2014 and ’15 and then stopped totally when they had their own team in ’16.”
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda’s Brendon Hartley gave the most recent engine update its first top ten finish last weekend in the United States Grand Prix, and Horner feels the recent updates have moved them ahead of Renault’s current specification, and he feels it bodes well for them for 2019, although he knows there is still progression to be made to be truly competitive.
“Month by month they are getting stronger and stronger, and the engines that they are bringing to the circuit now are getting closer and closer to the front of the field,” said Horner.
“There is still obviously some way to go, but it is really encouraging to see the progress and commitment that is coming out of Japan, and that hopefully will benefit us going into 2019.
“There is still a long way to go, but it has put a real energy into the whole factory in Milton Keynes and there is a real sense of optimism around the whole team.”
Horner believes that should Honda be able to bridge the gap in power that Red Bull has faced with Renault power against Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari, they can take the fight to those teams for race victories.
“We’ve got a reset on regulations and some teams will get it right and some teams will get it wrong,” said Horner. “We hope we are in the earlier part of that sentence.
“Our Achilles heel for the last five years has been power differential and, if we can start to really close that gap down to the Ferrari and Mercedes ahead, then we have the strength in depth as a team to take the fight to them.”