A Formula One season is never bereft of stories, and 2018 delivered its fair share of driver narratives.
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Regardless of the deadline having been almost a month ago, the decision with respect to who’ll be powering Red Bull Racing in 2019 is yet to be finalised and announced.
The energy drinks giant’s long-time French engine partner Renault had indicated that 15 May would be the date by which they were required to have confirmation of Red Bull’s plans beyond 2018.
Red Bull’s intention is clear: they wish to utilise Honda power in 2019 and conclude the arduous relationship with Renault, which has been grindingly deteriorating since 2014.
The Canadian Grand Prix was to be the event at which Red Bull got their final impression of Honda, with the Japanese manufacturer having brought a significant upgrade for Red Bull development team Toro Rosso.
A weekend riddled with misfortune, however, may not have provided conclusive enough data for Red Bull to analyse and compare against Renault. Brendon Hartley, after qualifying a season-best 12th, crashed out on the first lap of the race and Pierre Gasly had to work his way up the field following a grid penalty.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner alluded post-race that their conclusion may not come until after the French Grand Prix, which is in a fortnight’s time, which seemed to miff Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul.
“I guess they have all the information that they need now. I don’t see why they are going to further delay the decision,” Abiteboul told Autosport.
“As per the regulations, [the deadline] was May 15, and then we accepted to extend that a little bit on the back of 12 years of good collaboration.
“But past a certain point, the offer we made, and that they requested, will not stand. It was Montreal that they wanted to wait for our new spec, Honda’s new spec.
“They have all the information, I see no absolutely no reason to delay that any further.”
The immediate feedback after the race from Toro Rosso and Gasly, who finished 11th after starting 19th, was quite positive of the upgraded RA618H powerplant.
“I overtook a Haas, I overtook a Force India on the straight, which is the first time this year,” said the Frenchman, who was able to pass the more powerful cars on the long straights of Montreal.
Given the steps that Honda have made since their acrimonious divorce with McLaren in 2017, there is reason for optimism at Red Bull in the future and it was always hypothesised that a year of development with Toro Rosso would be greatly beneficial.
Having less scrutiny than was the case in their maligned partnership with McLaren has worked wonders for the Japanese marque, and the close synergy between Toro Rosso and Honda is believed to be a positive also.
As was outlined by Toro Rosso and Honda at the start of the season, the latter’s objective is to equal Renault by the end of 2018, having seemingly addressed reliability issues which plagued McLaren, and they are now making performance gains.
Given that reaching Renault is the target, there is ground for Red Bull to make the decision sooner than later and at last close the once great chapter that was their partnership with the French marque – a chapter that had seen four consecutive drivers and constructors titles.
Regardless of whether the stint with McLaren was a colossal failure, it would have been a great shame to see Honda depart Formula One altogether. Thus successfully uniting with Red Bull would be their redemption – though it will have to be treated with caution given the energy drinks company’s own ruthlessness with engine suppliers.