Red Bull-Honda has 'exceeded expectations' but future is uncertain

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner has praised the quick success achieved with Honda in their first year together.

Predictions varied on how competitive the partnership would be after the Japanese supplier struggled for three years with McLaren but showed signs of improvement with Toro Rosso last season.

Doubts were quickly erased, however, when Max Verstappen claimed third in Australia before winning in Austria, and while the performance is still a little shy of the very best, so far the decision to split from Renault appears mostly justified.

“This season was always going to be a transitionary year, with a new engine partner coming on stream and the whole marriage and integration that is involved,” Horner told Formula1.com

“That has exceeded internal expectations, in terms of by race nine we have a win and we have had a couple of podiums.

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“Reliability has been strong, we still have all three engines available to use (per driver)," the Red Bull boss revealed. "They have only introduced new engines based on performance increments.

“We’re pushing for more in the second half of the year, which they have in the pipeline. Now they have tasted success and they see the benefit that success brings. After the difficulty of their reintroduction back into F1, the victory was the tonic they needed.”

A 'Spec-4' engine is expected after the summer break and Honda are also known for producing a 'Suzuka Special' at their home race.

Longer-term, however, some questions do remain with the company yet to commit beyond 2020, and now Red Bull title sponsor Aston Martin is not ruling out a future alliance.

“Would I like to be a little bit more involved [in F1] technically? I think that depends.” CEO Andy Palmer said after a demonstration of the new Adrian Newey-inspired Valkyrie at Silverstone.

“The obvious place for Aston to become involved in would have been the engine and I think that’s a question on whether Honda continues to develop the engine.

“Clearly they have a lot more money and muscle-power than we do. I don’t think we’re going to muscle in on that while the relationship with Honda exists.

“We’re very happy with that relationship and we’re happy to see it continue, but nobody knows quite what the regulations will be beyond 2021 and who is going to be involved in that.

“We stand ready from that point of view, with the hope that Honda will continue."

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