Helmut Marko

Marko: Red Bull do believe in Honda

Helmut Marko

Red Bull have hedged their bets for 2018 keeping Renault power for their ‘A-team” and choosing Honda power for Toro Rosso, if the Japanese manufacturer can raise their game to Mercedes or Ferrari levels this forthcoming season then the energy drinks outfit will have hit the jackpot.

Speaking with regards to their first steps with Honda, Red Bull F1 consultant Helmut Marko said, “We are very happy with the Toro Rosso and Honda cooperation. Toro Rosso will put all its efforts into making a competitive chassis. We do believe in Honda – otherwise we wouldn’t have made that deal.”

Honda returned to Formula 1 with McLaren in 2015 and the story of great potential turning to divorce is well documented. Word is that the there is big motivation at Honda’s Sakura motorsport headquarters to reverse the recent years of frustration with the incentive of proving McLaren wrong.

Marko visited the factory late last year, and recalled, “I am very impressed with the facilities that they have – and their determination to win. It is just a matter of bringing everything together and we believe that this moment will arrive sooner than everybody is expecting. We will observe very closely – beyond 2018 everything is open!”

Toro Rosso drivers Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly endured a tough F1 ‘baptism’ as they were drafted in late in the season to replace Daniil Kvyat and Renault bound Carlos Sainz. But at least they got a taste of grand prix weekends and do not start 2018 as raw rookies.

Marko continued, “Toro Rosso started [2017] reasonably. Then they ran into unbelievable reliability problems – unbelievable! Also in terms of the car development, it was not what it should have been.”

“Now they are focused on next year and their cooperation with Honda. Since the announcement all their efforts have been going into that.”

“The drivers? All the drivers the team started the season with were gone at the end! [Carlos] Sainz is loaned to Renault; [Daniil] Kvyat is gone, so Toro Rosso had to restart in midseason with two blank pages. I think for the circumstances Gasly and Hartley did really well.”

“And the good news is that Brendon doesn’t have to switch anymore between Porsche and F1, so I am sure for next season Toro Rosso has a very promising driver line-up,” added Marko.

Team chief Christian Horner said of the year ahead, “From a Red Bull Group perspective it gives the opportunity to follow the progress of Honda before having to make a decision in springtime next year what our engine is for the future.”

Big Question: Can Honda deliver a competitive engine for Toro Rosso and ultimately Red Bull?