It’s official. 2019 will see Honda supplying two teams for the first time since returning to Formula 1, with Red Bull joining its junior team Toro Rosso as a partner.
After a positive collaboration so far this season – which has already yielded a fourth position in Bahrain and more recently a strong step forward in Canada – the Toro Rosso partnership will be added to with Red Bull for 2019 and 2020. Masashi Yamamoto – General Manager of Motor Sports Division – says the time was right to commit to a collaboration.
“I think now all other teams have already started the development for 2019 so we will also have to start work on the matching of the chassis and the power unit with the team. Though we have more time compared to last year’s Toro Rosso situation, it is still a relatively shorter timeframe than everyone else. So we have to make sure we have good communication in order to have smooth development together.”
Naturally, with Red Bull the owner of the two teams we will now supply and traditionally the bigger outfit in terms of personnel and budget, some observers assume that means it will take over works status from Toro Rosso. But Yamamoto insists that will not be the case.
“We’ll supply the same specification PU to both Red Bull and Toro Rosso. From a manufacturer’s point of view, it doesn’t make sense to identify either team as either works or customer as current regulations oblige us to supply the same power unit to all our teams.
“In that sense, this contract puts the three parties into an equal position. Just as was the case with Toro Rosso, we felt a sincere respect from Red Bull throughout the conversation that led to this contract. We appreciate them showing us such an attitude even after seeing our difficult time over the previous three years in F1.
“Though we are not going into further details of the contract than shown in the press release, I should say the condition is very fair for both parties. We feel that we will have to live up to their high expectations, but can see their respect for us, and we will put everything we have into the development for next season.”
While it will be the first time that Honda partners with two teams in F1 in the current era, plans had already been in place to supply an extra team from this season and so Yamamoto is confident the structure that is in place – plus the close proximity of the Honda and Red Bull factories in Milton Keynes – will make the expansion a smooth one.
“When we returned to F1 in 2015, it was always our intention to be running two teams from this year, therefore we have the organisational structure to deal with that. In addition, as Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso are in the same family, we are able to have a simpler organisation on the Honda side. But we still have some more room for improvement in terms of the organisation and personnel and we will work on this very soon with the two teams.
“Cleary it is an advantage to have factories close to one another. Though there are plenty of technologies nowadays like TV conference and we are fully utilising them, I believe face-to-face communication is still very important as it can still make a very big difference.”
Partnering with such a successful team is cause for excitement for the future, but should not detract from the commitment to the current challenge with Toro Rosso. While there will be no reduction in the drive to improve and succeed this year, Yamamoto sees the addition of Red Bull as a positive development for our current partner too.
“There won’t be a change in the current relationship between Honda and Toro Rosso. But we expect mutual transaction between the teams and Honda within the regulations, so that we need to make sure we maximise that advantage in order to get good synergy together.
“It was a great result finishing fourth in the second round, but there were some ups and downs after that. It is a very interesting season for fans, as well as those of us who work in the sport, because it seems that the result of the midfield runners varies depending on the car set-up and the characteristics of the tracks.
“We are now working on development to get further improvements to challenge for even better results for the rest of this season.”
The progress of the Toro Rosso partnership is one of the factors that has given Red Bull faith in our future together, and with that comes major expectations. As a team winning races already this year, the target for Red Bull and Honda is to reach even greater heights.
“It is one of the top teams,” Yamamoto says. “It has won several championships and this year too it has already won some races. In addition, it is also obvious that they have a very good chassis and this means we’ll have better chances of winning races. This gives further motivation to all the members of Honda, but at the same time, it is a huge pressure and responsibility for us.
“However, it is Honda’s nature to always aspire to a very high target, and I think that’s what makes Honda Honda.
“As a starting point, we do not want to see Red Bull Racing’s performance drop below its current level. But our target is to go further and do better than they are doing at the moment.”