Red Bull is willing to take engine penalties during the 2019 Formula 1 season to capitalise on any development gains made by new power unit supplier Honda. 

Having ended its long-term partnership with Renault in a bid to get back into F1 championship contention and close the gap to rivals Mercedes and Ferrari, the Milton Keynes squad has followed sister team Toro Rosso in taking on Honda engines for the upcoming season. 

Team principal Christian Horner claimed the Japanese engine manufacturer has provided Red Bull with its best-ever installation, describing Honda’s new power unit as a “thing of beauty”. 

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Asked if Red Bull would be willing to take grid drops in 2019 for enhanced engine development, Horner replied: “Yes I think if it makes sense. 

“You saw in previous years if you pick the penalties at the right venues. 

“In Russia last year Max was already back in the top five by lap six so if you pick the right venue and assists the development of the power unit then strategically you can lessen the pain."

Honda enjoyed a strong start to pre-season testing by completing the most mileage of any engine manufacturer across the first week in Barcelona, with Red Bull left encouraged by its progress. 

“I think Honda have had a good winter and certainly they are reducing that gap significantly but of course what you don’t know is what the others have done," Horner explained. 

“If they have found another 50kw then we’ve got a big issue. We’ve been very impressed by the approach of Honda and the progress that they’ve made. 

“For us it’s a vital piece of the jigsaw to get us into a competitive position not just for this year but for next year and potentially beyond.”

Horner hopes Red Bull can take advantage of Pierre Gasly’s experience of the Honda power unit from his time at Toro Rosso prior to his promotion. 

“I think it’s given him a good combination of knowledge so he knows the strengths and weaknesses and is able to focus the engineering team on that,” Horner said. 

“I think it’s only a positive that he brings that experience and data bank of knowledge with him.

“The expectation for us is very much to make progress,” he added. “New year, new regulations, new engine partner, new driver. 

“Our objective is to try and close that gap between ourselves and Mercedes and Ferrari, and try and achieve a more consistent performance a variants of circuits. 

“Previously our strengths were at circuits that were very chassis focused but we’re hopeful with the changes that we’ve made that we will be able to have a more consistent season across a variants of circuits.”

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