Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that the team needed 40kW of more power to take a title challenge to Mercedes and Ferrari in 2018. The energy drink squad finished the season in third place for the second consecutive year.
Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen won two races each over the course of the campaign, but didn't have the equipment to boast a title challenge. Red Bull will switch to Honda power units in 2019, ending its long-standing relationship with Renault.
The relationship between Red Bull and Renault has been strained in recent years, with the latter failing to produce an engine capable of competing against Mercedes, and in the last couple of seasons, Ferrari.
"It’s always easy to say ifs, buts and maybes. If there would have been another 40kW in the back of the car then the season could have looked quite different,” Horner said.
“Hats off to everyone at Milton Keynes to arguably producing one of our best ever chassis. If you look at the other users with the same engine [Renault and McLaren], there’s a world of difference.”
Horner was asked what he thinks would happen if F1's four engine suppliers started 2019 the way they ended 2018, to which he replied: "I think we will certainly be a lot closer. What we see and hear in the pipeline as well. Pieces of paper are one thing, the stopwatch ultimately never lies.”
Unreliability was a major block in Red Bull's 2018 season, as Ricciardo and Verstappen were plagued with engine issues throughout the year. While Honda has made improvements pace-wise, it hasn't completely cleared up its reliability concerns.
“Reliability isn’t something we’ve had,” Horner acknowledged. "We’ve had 11 or 12 retirements this year - that’s our biggest Achilles heel. If we can achieve the power and reliability. Lewis had one DNF this year, likewise with Sebastian. That’s the rate we have to be aiming to achieve.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing