Pierre Gasly’s fourthplace finish for Toro Rosso-Honda will pique Red Bull Racing’s interest in the Japanese marque as its own 2019 power unit supply remains up for grabs.
Red Bull had a nightmare in the desert with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo out of the race in the early laps. Verstappen’s bullish move on Lewis Hamilton in the opening exchanges terminally damaged his own car, and Ricciardo lost power due to an electrical issue at pretty much exactly the same time.
All of this happened whilst Honda entered new territory in terms of performance. Gasly’s drive was a mature one from a relatively new driver that deserves credit, but the Honda power unit that propelled him is also worth a mention.
In the three Bahrain races prior to its switch to Toro Rosso, Honda had an awful record. Three power unit related retirements, no Q3 appearances and one championship point scored courtesy of Stoffel Vandoorne’s charged debut for McLaren in 2016.
It’s a power hungry circuit that makes Gasly’s result this year a real mark of progress. If the team can continue to challenge for ‘best of the rest’ status at a few more races, then it will force Red Bull to seriously consider Honda as a supplier for 2019.
Daniel Ricciardo made comments on this prospect whilst also conceding that his guess is as good as ours.
“The team obviously has the opportunity to move to another engine. That’s no secret. It’s natural that if Toro Rosso continues to do so well, it will reassure Red Bull and the likelihood will be higher. I’m watching, but as drivers we’re not involved in the discussions.”
Aston Martin is also interested in supplying power units, but as Honda’s developing story underlines, finding success in F1 at the moment requires huge patience and an almost silly amount of R&D investment.
Honda had a terrible Australian Grand Prix and will still have to think about its three-power units-per-season limit for the rest of the year, but as Gasly’s Bahrain drive has proven, when it’s running smoothly, the Honda unit is clearly a step up in performance.
Red Bull’s issues with Renault have been well documented in recent years – could a few more trouble-free weekends and impressive performances from Honda convince Red Bull to make the switch in 2019? Let us know what you think in the comments.