Daniel Ricciardo admits the possibility of Red Bull switching to Honda engines for next season remains strongly on the table.
Last year, junior team Toro Rosso agreed to take on the Japanese manufacturer for 2018 enabling McLaren to end their troubled partnership after three seasons and switch to Renault.
One of the reasons for that was the longer-term potential Honda possesses with a big budget and a strong infrastructure in Sakura, where their factory is based.
It also opened up the possibility that should the company overcome the problems they had with the British team then it would be an option for Red Bull, who has struggled for competitiveness with Renault since the V6 hybrid era began in 2015.
Now, after Pierre Gasly managed an excellent fourth place last weekend in Bahrain while Ricciardo retired with electrical problems on Lap 2, the Australian admits his team is watching closely.
“It’s helping their chances of looking attractive to Red Bull,” he was quoted by PlanetF1.
“They obviously invested quite a bit in the last few years and it didn’t work with McLaren but [it is] pretty cool that now Toro Rosso is doing well with it.”
Interestingly, it is also another factor for Ricciardo to include as he considers his future with Red Bull.
“At the moment it has got nothing to do with me because I’m not contracted to the team for next year,” he said.
“But those engine discussions don’t involve us drivers. I’m aware that there could be some changes next year and it’s cool for Honda.”
One man very much involved in that decision is motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, though he too was coy when asked if last weekend’s result had, had any impact.
“Before we made the decision to work with Honda [with Toro Rosso] we believed it could be a successful package, once they showed us what they were planning to do,” he explained.
“When the time is right, we’ll make our decision. There’s a bigger picture which we have to look at.
“It’s going in the right direction, and you journalists should know that we are brave.”
The Austrian has long made his frustration with Renault clear and that was the case again after Bahrain.
“The problem of Ricciardo is it is not the first time it’s happened,” he claimed. “What can you do when a technical issue just stops you completely?
“First we have to sort out our qualifying, but we need a fast and reliable engine,” Marko concluded.