Rich Energy have become the title sponsor of the Haas F1 team for 2019. That means there’ll be two energy drinks companies going head to head this season, with Rich Energy at Haas up against Red Bull. The former’s CEO, William Storey, raised eyebrows by claiming Haas can beat Red Bull in 2019. We examine whether this was just PR speak or whether Haas really do have a chance of moving further up the order in 2019.
Speaking to The Sun at Haas’ 2019 livery launch in London, Storey said:
“We are confident we will beat Red Bull in many races this year. That is holy grail marketing but sometimes you get a bit of serendipity and right timing. Red Bull have spent £250billion in F1 and last year across Toro Rosso and Red Bull, there or there abouts, £400million […] I think if we do beat them on track, which I think we have a great chance of doing, then that will be a brilliant achievement for us.”
Why Red Bull will stay ahead
It’s a bold claim that a team in only its fourth season will beat four-time Drivers’ and Constructors’ Champions Red Bull. As Storey notes, Red Bull have a massive budget to play with. RaceFans revealed that Red Bull had a budget of $310 million last season in comparison to Haas’ $130 million. Red Bull also have over triple the staff of Haas, making the American outfit the real underdog. A bigger budget and workforce ultimately means a better ability to constantly and effectively update their car, and the new aero rules for 2019 are likely to play into the Milton Keynes’ team’s favour – especially with renowned aerodynamic expert Adrian Newey on board.
Furthermore, Red Bull haven’t finished below fourth in the Constructors’ Championship since 2008, with fourth in 2015 being their worst position in the championship so far this decade. Even then, Red Bull scored 187 points over the course of the season – over double Haas’ 93 point tally in 2018, their best season in the sport so far.
Why Haas could challenge Red Bull
Of course, while Haas have the benefit of the status quo in 2019 – with the same engine and drivers as 2018 – Red Bull step into the unknown with a new engine and a new driver line-up. While Pierre Gasly, the 2016 GP2 champion, is expected to perform competently against team-mate Max Verstappen, a bigger question mark can be placed over the performance of their new Honda power unit. All of Red Bull’s top four Constructors’ Championship finishes have come with Renault power, but a relative lack of performance compared to the Ferrari and Mercedes power units led to a fractious relationship between Red Bull and Renault in recent years, with Red Bull finally ending their twelve year association with the French manufacturer for 2019. Instead they turn to Honda.
Honda had a troubled start on their return to F1 in 2015, with the failed McLaren Honda partnership eventually ending after 2017, and Toro Rosso – Red Bull’s junior team – signing up for power from the Japanese manufacturer in 2018. The team enjoyed some good results throughout the season, notably Gasly’s fourth place in Bahrain, but slipped to ninth in the Constructors’ Championship. Nevertheless, what Red Bull saw was enough to convince them to jump on to the Honda ship for 2019.
But the question remains whether Red Bull will still be as competitive with Honda power. A team powered by the manufacturer last finished in the top three in the championship back in 2004, with sixth for McLaren in 2016 being their best result since their comeback. If Honda fail to increase performance from their engine, Red Bull may well slip down the order behind Haas. Haas enjoy strong links with Ferrari and will use their engines, which proved to be a match for the Mercedes power unit, once again in 2019. Of course, last year’s form could turn out to be irrelevant, but we’ll get a clearer idea of how the engine units compare in Winter Testing.
Furthermore, Haas will enjoy a larger budget in 2019 thanks to their new title sponsor. Haas shocked many with their relative competitiveness when they joined the grid at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. The team have improved in performance over their first three seasons, scoring 29 points in 2016, 47 points in 2017 and 93 points last year on their way to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship. There’s also a sense that Haas underachieved last season. They all but threw away 22 points in the first race of 2018 after pit-stop problems for both cars whilst they were running fourth and fifth on track. Those 22 points alone would have put them within touching distance of Renault for fourth in the championship, while without disqualifications for technical infringements on Romain Grosjean’s sixth place at Monza and Kevin Magnussen’s ninth place in Texas, the team would have beaten Renault to fourth.
Whether Haas can really challenge Red Bull in 2019 seems to depend highly on the engine factor. If Honda have improved over the winter, the team could be difficult to catch. If not, expect Haas to continue their upward momentum in 2019.
What do you think? Could Haas really finish ahead of Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship in 2019? Vote in our poll on twitter, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.