The remainder of the 2018 Formula 1 season will be tough on drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley as from now on Toro Rosso is a test-bed for Honda to fast-track development of their power unit ahead of Red Bull bolting them to the back of the RB15s next year.
Engine penalties will be the norm at just about every race for the Toro Rosso rookies, already it’s looking bleak for both drivers with penalties looming in the wake of ten races packed with changes to components.
Auto Motor und Sport report that Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko indicated that the offer to use Toro Rosso as a test-bed came from his camp, “Of course we leave the decision to Honda, but if they find a tenth with the development it is fine, even if that means we’re taking penalties for it.”
Team chief Christian Horner made no secret that Honda’s determination to save face after four years of misery is intense and money will be thrown at the problem until the problem goes away.
Horner explained, “With the resource and facilities and investment Honda have made and the progress they have made – particularly in the last six months – for us it was a particularly straightforward decision. The agreements that we have with Honda are very much focused on performance.”
At this time last year, Honda powered McLaren had only scored points in one race during the first half of the season and were last in the constructors’ standings.
Currently, Toro Rosso lie eighth in the championship with three points finishes in the first ten rounds, suggesting improvement has been dramatic.
To Red Bull’s surprise, and delight, they have realised that the engines bolted to the back of the Toro Rossos are not as bad as they were made out by McLaren last year.
Toro Rosso team chief, Franz Tost told ORF, “I’ve never had problems with Honda. I don’t know what McLaren’s experience was, but the engines are not as bad as we heard. The engine is good enough and we are working with them to improve it.”
How good they will be only time will tell, namely, what happens at the season opener in Melbourne next year, until then it is carte blanche for Honda to use Toro Rosso as a test-bed for the big deal next year.
Big Question: Have Red Bull made the right decision to bank on Honda?