Apart from Adrian Newey’s RB19 design for Red Bull, which has played a pivotal role in their dominant presence on the Formula 1 grid, another critical aspect of their success lies in the power units supplied by Honda. However, this partnership is on the verge of a significant change, as Honda is set to part ways with Red Bull once the current era of engine regulations comes to an end. Nonetheless, as the sport faces an engine development freeze until 2026, Honda is directing its efforts towards enhancing the reliability of its power units.
In the world of Formula 1, where innovation is often stifled by regulations, the current engine freeze has limited teams’ ability to make performance-related improvements to their power units. However, there’s a silver lining for teams like Red Bull, as they are permitted to focus on enhancing the engine’s reliability. Honda Racing Corporation’s President, Koji Watanabe, believes that there is room for improvement in this regard for the upcoming season. This pursuit of greater durability is significant because, over time, the wear and tear on a power unit can result in a noticeable decline in performance. With teams allowed to utilize three power units and related hybrid components in the 2023 season, it becomes crucial to ensure that the power units maintain their output throughout the year to stay competitive.
Koji Watanabe expressed his optimism regarding the potential improvements in the longevity of Honda’s power units in Red Bull’s cars. He stated:
“In terms of power and performance, we may not improve anything, but in other areas, we can make strides even with this engine.
“At Ferrari, for example, they have developed the engine considerably and Mercedes’ ERS system is also very strong.
“We will also improve our engine for next year in terms of its longevity. So there is definitely something in the pipeline.”
“The matter brings us to the evolving relationship between Honda and Red Bull, which is gradually approaching a crossroads in 2026. Red Bull’s future partnership with Ford, forming Red Bull Powertrains for the next era of power units, is on the horizon, while Honda is poised to collaborate with Aston Martin.”
This upcoming transition means that after nearly 18 months, Honda and Red Bull will be competing as rivals rather than partners. Consequently, Watanabe revealed that there is currently no communication between the two parties concerning new power unit developments.
“Red Bull doesn’t tell us anything about their engine, and we don’t say anything to them about our development.
“So there is already a kind of information war going on at the moment. At Red Bull, they do have some knowledge about our current engine but, ultimately, we are responsible for the development and the whole process.
“Most of the knowledge is with us.
“Until 2025, I hope Red Bull wins everything. And from 2026, we will hopefully be their biggest competitor. Building a completely new engine is a huge challenge, but our goal is also to win a championship in the next era.”