By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Renault may yet come out the big winner through McLaren’s separation from Honda. Doing their best to exploit an enemy’s weakness, they have already poached Carlos Sainz from Toro Rosso and dropped them from their engine supply, but if a report by the usually accurate Auto Motor und Sport proves to be true it’s about to get a lot worse for Red Bull.
According to the report, the French manufacturer has informed Red Bull that they are cancelling their order of power units for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, meaning that Red Bull will be forced to follow their junior team Toro Rosso in taking Honda engines, albeit in 2019 instead of 2018.
Granted, signs of improvement from Honda have already been agreed to as cause for a potential deal with the senior team if the Japanese company makes ground with Toro Rosso in 2018, but that point is now moot.
If Honda fails to improve the engines the move will be disastrous for Red Bull and drop them down the grid from the top three position they’ve enjoyed for nearly a decade. If that comes to pass, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will both execute the performance clauses in their contracts and look for a way out. Such a downturn in performance will see a downturn in revenue and sponsorship as well, Honda will have to invest a lot of money into Red Bull if they can’t get their power units up to speed. With both Porsche and Aston Martin waiting in the wings with an interest to buy the team for 2021, losing sponsors or drivers could put the very future of the team into doubt.
With the move Renault sets an end date for the troubled relationship they have had with Red Bull, hurts a key championship rival, and potentially puts the drivers market into chaos. The implications of the next few days could well shape the sport more than anyone could have foreseen.
More news should emerge over the weekend in Marina Bay, McLaren’s Honda divorce looks set to provide some of the grid with golden opportunities and leave others with some sizable collateral damage.