It’s the season of silliness in F1 so let’s have a recap of some of those stories and how they could play out. This maybe, possibly, could happen. Or not.
As is tradition with the silly season, let’s start with the drivers, in specific, Alonso. Much has already been said about the bridges already burned, so where else can Alonso go? One clue is that he’s stated he’s going to be absolutely loyal to McLaren; as long as they make the right decision on the engine. No pressure on McLaren then.
Of course, the biggest story is McLaren’s predicted divorce from Honda, and who else will get the Honda engine. There must be huge pressure on Zak Brown to lift McLaren off the bottom, and that pressure comes from picking a better engine. But who would supply? Mercedes rushed to sign Manor when it looked they were going to be forced to supply Red Bull.
Simply signing up uncompetitive teams means they’ve met their obligation to supply without affecting their championship aspirations. Ferrari being Ferrari do things different. Yes, you can have an engine, but we only have last year’s model in stock. Which leaves Renault, the “slightly better than they already have” engine.
Would McLaren have scored more points this year if they had Renault over Honda? Yes. Will they next year? Maybe. There’s signs that Honda are making huge progress with their power unit, and there’s no shortage of signs they’ve got commitment to F1 with huge investment and now seeking the right outside help. At the start of next season they may well be ahead of Renault, and certainly by mid-year expect them to be.
Don’t overlook how late they changed the engine concept to get more performance. What they’ve achieved in such a short space of time is incredible.
Which brings us nicely to Red Bull. Toro Rosso is their B team, where they put their up and coming drivers. They have the luxury of being able to put the Honda engine to use there, without expecting it to perform at the head of the grid.
But why would you put in an engine which is slower than the current Renault? Simply because Red Bull knows that’s the only other option for a championship winning team.
They need to do something different as the Renault engine isn’t working for them, and when it starts to work surely Renault will want to keep the spoils to themselves? It’s why Ron Dennis signed up Honda in the first place; customers are not allowed to compete with works teams.
Alas, being silly season there’s more on Red Bull and the rumour that Porsche is being courted in to marriage. Porsche seem interested and has been involved with the 2021 engine regulations.
It’s also said that Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull’s owner, is looking to sell. Toro Rosso has been up for sale for years to anybody who makes the right offer.
A sweetener for Porsche would be that Red Bull would keep sponsoring the team, but the ownership would pass, making it much more economical to operate.
Not forgetting that VAG (Porsche’s owner) has just exited two different programs from Le Mans prototypes so they have the cash.
And finally, my own little addition to silly season. What if Honda bought Toro Rosso? What they’re spending being best buddies with McLaren is probably more than enough to buy out Toro Rosso. They might even be able to keep sponsorship from Red Bull for a couple of years to help too.
Opinion by GrandPrix247 reader Dr Symanski