At present, Honda doesn’t necessarily have the most marketable product in Formula 1. Their current partners McLaren are continually pinning their lack of performance – and quite rightly so – on the Honda power unit’s deficiencies and the Japanese manufacturer has a history of overstating the value of engine upgrades.
Regardless, certain teams are willing to consider Honda power as an option for 2018 and beyond. Sauber had even signed a deal with Honda prior to the appointment of Frederic Vasseur as the team principal, who had other ideas and subsequently terminated the deal. Now, it would seem that Toro Rosso is considering Honda power for 2018.
While it may sound bizarre, such a tie-up would make a lot of sense.
Honda has to supply a second team sooner rather than later. Their progress is unquestionably limited by only having data provided by one team. If they were to supply a second squad, their development would surely be accelerated and new parts would be quicker to assess. It could as much as double their output.
Here in lies why McLaren would be content with Honda ‘diluting’ their efforts and joining forces with another team. With each passing day, McLaren seems more and more likely to have to stick with Honda power into 2018 and as a result, are reliant on their performance and reliability improvements.
Recent reports suggest that Honda are currently in talks with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso, regarding a 2018 supply, despite the Faenza based team being contracted to run a Renault power unit next season.
A Toro Rosso and Honda partnership does, however, make sense for a number of reasons. Not least because Red Bull is far from content with their current supply courtesy of Renault, albeit badged as a TAG Heuer.
Red Bull would want to use Toro Rosso as a Honda test-bed, assisting the Japanese marque in improving their power unit competitiveness and reliability before a supply is handed to the top team.
Red Bull has openly evaluated ditching Renault in favour of an alternative supply before, but neither Mercedes nor Ferrari have shown an interest in supplying the Milton Keynes squad, fearing that a Red Bull with a strong power unit would usurp their respective works teams in the competitive order.
Short of building their own power unit – which has already been ruled out – Honda is Red Bull’s only escape plan. Allowing Honda to mature with Toro Rosso is a cunning strategy which might just work.
Assuming that Toro Rosso can lever their way out of their current Renault supply ties for 2018, expect to see a Honda badge on the side of the STR13. It’s a scenario in which all parties involved are set to gain from.