In 2018, Toro Rosso drivers Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley often took Honda engine penalties almost every other race because the team wanted to accelerate the Japanese manufacturer's development schedule. It was the year of being the test mule for Red Bull who had to be convinced about the horsepower and reliability before switching from longtime suppliers Renault.
Honda were not in focus as much as they were in the three McLaren years (2015-17), and though claims have been made of quantum leaps, on track results were still missing in 2018. While Toro Rosso took a lot of hits for in-season, even in-race testing, Red Bull can't afford such liberties in 2019. It is here that having a B-team is helping them out, unlike McLaren. It is a definite advantage for Honda as they will have a compliant test team and a main team.
Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost told to motorosport.com that the Italian constructor is willing to take more grid penalty hits in 2019 and protect Red Bull drivers from having too many penalties.
"If that helps the strategy for Red Bull to win races and the world championship, of course. We do not even need to discuss this, it's within our philosophy. I'm more than happy with it, because in parallel we also improve the performance."
In return, Toro Rosso will be using Red Bull gearbox and other components like the entire rear end of the car. This kind of synergy may be seen as unfair by other teams, but that's how the situation is panning out to be. Red Bull had the third highest budget ($315 million) in 2018 and with Honda committed to pouring more resources to succeed in Formula 1, they would be even better placed financially.
Added to the fact that Toro Rosso has come out and said that they will do everything needed to accelerate the development, Red Bull is a 4-car team and they give themselves a better chance of fighting for the championship.
This is something defending champion Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to. He believes that a fascinating battle is on the horizon if the Milton Keynes squad can produce a competitive package this year.
“Red Bull were very strong at the end of the year. They’ve got a new engine (Honda). Will it be able to compete with ours? I hope so, because that would be epic if Red Bull could really start to mingle with us a bit more, weekend in, weekend out. They’ve got to obviously improve on their reliability which has been a big downfall for them this year. So there’s lots of areas, but I really wish them all the best - and we are down for the competition that’s for sure.”Published 15 Jan 2019, 14:11 IST