BERNAT LÓPEZ / ©RACERZ
Expectation is mounting in the F1 paddock that Red Bull can emerge as genuine title challengers next year when they will be powered by Honda. Red Bull previously enjoyed all of their championship-winning success between 2010 and 2013 with Renault but the partnership has floundered since the advent of F1’s current hybrid-turbo era – during which period Mercedes have claimed five successive title doubles.
Ross Brawn, who ran Honda’s works effort in 2008, enjoyed major success at Ferrari and helped lay the foundations for the current all-conquering Mercedes’ team, said Red Bull needed to take full advantage of escaping the limitations of being a Renault customer.
“Honda teaming up with Red Bull will be positive because Red Bull become a full works team”, says Brawn. “It’s always a different challenge when you are a works team with an engine manufacturer. You have to hold hands and you have got to jump in together, work together, and be as one and that is the strength of that opportunity”, he added.
Should Honda produce an engine capable of allowing Red Bull to fight regularly for wins, Max Verstappen has been tipped to challenge for the drivers’ title. Brawn said the 21-year-old Dutchman will thrive as team leader alongside Gasly.
“It’s easy to forget how young he is”, says Brawn. “If you think of yourself at that age, with the exposure and pressure, what he is doing is pretty special. What we are seeing with Max is a great maturing of his approach, losing none of his speed and aggression but just being a bit more tempered in terms of how he attacks things”.
Verstappen: the youngest ever?
Honda can make Max Verstappen F1’s youngest champion. Sebastian Vettel currently holds that record, having secured his first title with Red Bull in 2010 aged 23 years and 134 days.
That means Verstappen, currently 21, has until 2020 to take the honour – but Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said there are “no excuses” not to try to achieve it in 2019.
He sees the team’s form in Mexico, where the altitude put Renault on a par with rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, as a sign of how strong the Red Bull chassis is and is confident 2019 engine supplier Honda is already superior to Renault.