Red Bull Racing have confirmed a switch to Honda engines for the 2019-20 Formula One seasons in a decision that could shape Daniel Ricciardo’s future.
The Australian driver’s contract with Red Bull expires at the end of the season and he is expected to decide between staying with the team or joining Italian giants Ferrari.
Ricciardo, 28, has kept his cards close to his chest but his pros and cons list will be more complete now that his current bosses have made their call.
Honda will replace Renault, who have supplied the team since 2007 in a partnership that secured four championships, after an impressive start to its first year supplying Red Bull sister team Toro Rosso.
“It’s helping their chances of looking attractive to Red Bull,” Ricciardo said of Honda in April, when the companies were in early discussions.
“At the moment it has got nothing to do with me because I’m not contracted to the team for next year. But those engine discussions don’t involve us drivers.
“I’m aware that there could be some changes next year. And it’s cool for Honda. They obviously invested quite a bit in the last few years, and it didn’t work with McLaren. But pretty cool that now Toro Rosso is doing well with it.”
The Japanese engine manufacturer returned to Formula One in 2015, but the McLaren team were so disappointed with the results that they paid more than $100 million to cut ties with years to run on the contract.
However, Honda have improved since powering Toro Rosso, highlighted by Pierre Gasly finishing fourth and seventh in Bahrain and Canada, and Red Bull noticed.
“We have always taken decisions such as this dispassionately and with only one criteria in mind – do we believe the outcome will allow us to compete at a higher level?” team principal Christian Horner said.
“After careful consideration and evaluation we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team.
“We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso, and by the scope of their ambition, which matches our own.”
Red Bull’s relationship with Renault soured after falling behind key rivals Mercedes and Ferrari when engines changed to hybrid power units in 2014, Ricciardo’s first season with the team.
The Australian finished third in the championship as he won a tempestuous internal battle with then reigning four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who promptly left to join Ferrari.
Whether they reunite is now up to Ricciardo.