As rumoured, Toro Rosso will be Honda-powered from the 2018 F1 season, having agreed terms with the Japanese automotive giant as part of a multi-part shift in the grand prix landscape.
McLaren, which has endured a hapless partnership with Honda in the past couple of seasons, was expected to be the first to announce a change, the Woking organisation anticipated to take up the supply of Renault engines currently being employed by Toro Rosso. That deal is expected to keep a frustrated Fernando Alonso at McLaren for 2018, while Red Bull protege Carlos Sainz is likely to head to the Renault works team – supposedly on loan for one year – as a makeweight in persuading the regie to switch its allegiance away from Toro Rosso.
“Everyone in our team is very much looking forward to working with Honda,” Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost revealed, “Ever since its founder, Soichiro Honda, entered his motorcycles in events, racing has always been a central part of the company’s ethos. It’s a very exciting challenge and I hope that both parties will gain a great deal from it as we develop together. Honda has a long history in F1, dating back to 1964 when it first entered the sport with its own team and, as an engine supplier it has taken five Drivers’ World Championship titles and six Constructors’. This heritage, together with the full confidence that we have in Honda’s capabilities to succeed, make me strongly believe that we will achieve a fruitful future together.’
Although not mentioned in the announcement issued by STR, Honda is also thought to be taking a not insignificant stake in the Faenza operation.
“Toro Rosso is an experienced team with a youthful energy and history of nurturing the stars of the future,” Honda’s Takahiro Hachigo said of the company’s newest F1 partner, “Everyone at Honda is looking forward to working with Toro Rosso, and we are excited to start this new chapter in our F1 journey with them. I would like to express our appreciation to Liberty Media and the FIA for their cooperation toward the realisation of this partnership. Honda and Toro Rosso will work as one team to strive for progress and a successful future together. We appreciate the support of our fans as we begin this challenge.”
With preparations already underway for the new season, STR technical director James Key admitted that confirmation of the deal would mean a little more work for the team at Faenza, even though the Honda link had been mooted for some time.
“We are very pleased with our new partnership with Honda and the opportunities this presents, and we start to work immediately,” Key confirmed, “It will be a question of adaption of our plans rather than a wholesale change and we are in the process of re-planning our design and production activities in conjunction with Honda to ensure that we both hit all our important deadlines. There are some challenges to face given the time of year, but Toro Rosso has faced many difficult tasks with timing in the past and has the flexibility to deal with it.
“We will be working hard not to only re-design the PU installation but also ensure that this has minimal or no effect on the ongoing development work for 2018 – that is our current target. The architecture of the car will change in line with the PU requirements and our chassis and gearbox designs are currently under review to be adapted accordingly, similarly we will be working closely with Honda on the performance aspects of the PU installation that the chassis will influence to ensure we maximise the potential of the package as a whole from the outset. We look forward to a strong, stable and proactive partnership with our colleagues at Honda.”