Red Bull Racing in late January reached an agreement with Honda that will allow both Red Bull and AlphaTauri teams to continue using Honda engines after the Japanese company quits the sport at the end of the current season.
Honda is the engine partner of both Red Bull Racing and its sister team, AlphaTauri. In October of last year, Honda had announced that they would be leaving the sport at the end of the 2021 F1 season as a power unit manufacturer to focus on zero-emission technology.
The deal between Red Bull and Honda came after the FIA, and all the ten teams agreed to freeze engine development for the field until the end of the 2024 season.
This move from Red Bull is seen as a solid move for them, as it gives them flexibility and independence before the introduction of new engines in F1 from the 2025 season.
“This agreement represents a significant step for Red Bull in its Formula 1 journey,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
“We were understandably disappointed when Honda made the decision to leave the sport as an engine manufacturer, as our relationship yielded immediate success, but we are grateful for their support in facilitating this new agreement.
“Honda has invested significantly in hybrid technology to ensure the supply of competitive power units to both teams. We now begin the work of bringing the power unit division in-house and integrating the new facilities and personnel into our Technology Campus.
“In the meantime, we are fully focused on achieving the best possible results in what will be Honda’s final season as an official power unit supplier.”
Red Bull has set a new company called Red Bull Powertrains to maintain the engines at its technology base in Milton Keynes.
Team boss Horner said that the team was taking a “long-term view” and that their new engine development team had to be ready to design power units for the 2025 season while maintaining the Honda engine they will be using from 2022 to 2024.
He also added, “Strategically, this is a big commitment by the group. It shows their commitment to F1. To bring it on-site is an enormous undertaking and one that truly integrates the power unit into the chassis. We have taken control of our own destiny in that respect.”
For the remainder of the 2021 season, Honda will continue developing the engine and ensuring that it’s ready for the new rules set to be introduced in 2022, which forces teams to make sure that 10% of the petrol used is composed of bio-fuel.
When the news about Honda leaving F1 as an engine manufacturer had come out, Red Bull was left with two choices: seek out another supplier or start in-house engine production, which is what they ended up doing.
“We need a competitive engine and this is the best route,” team boss Christian Horner said in an interview with Autocar.
“Mercedes wouldn’t supply one and Renault didn’t want to supply one, so it didn’t leave us with a lot of choices. We’ve got to get on with it and make sure Toto(Wolff) rue that decision. Maybe one day he will need an engine from us!”
Even though Red Bull’s in house move was seen as the most likely one, Horner did confirm that they did look at some other possible opportunities.
“Probably the most willing was Ferrari, and we had some exploratory discussions,” he revealed.
“But to be a customer, so to have to accept all the integration, particularly with the new regulations coming, would be a massively hard pill to swallow, so that’s when we started to explore the possibility of ‘okay, how do we take on this challenge in a Red Bull manner and see if we can put a deal together with Honda in the foreseeable future?”
“Having enjoyed a great relationship with Honda for the past couple of years and having sampled what that [manufacturer partnership] feels like, we took this opportunity to fully integrate the power unit into the technical team, on-site in Milton Keynes, and become the only team other than Ferrari to have everything under one roof.”
“It was a hell of a ballsy decision to go for it, but that’s Red Bull.”