Toro Rosso technical director James Key believes his team “can spring a few surprises” this season in what will be its first year in partnership with Honda.
The breakdown of the McLaren-Honda partnership led to Toro Rosso switching engine suppliers from Renault to the Japanese manufacturer over the winter. While Honda has struggled over the past three years, it is entering into the second year of its current power unit concept and Key has found a works partnership to be a hugely positive change from a Toro Rosso perspective.
“It’s been a totally different world for us, working with Honda and working as a works team,” Key told RACER. “To have such a strong collaboration with your power unit supplier is new for Toro Rosso, but it’s an extremely welcome situation to have.
“Honda are excellent to work with, I have to say. We’ve shared an extremely strong common goal and a very good working relationship to date, and there’s no reason why that won’t continue in exactly the same way.”
Key also warned against writing off the Toro Rosso-Honda partnership on the basis of their recent history, saying that he has faith in the work that both sides have been doing to recover from a disappointing 2017.
“I think the really good thing with how we’re working is that we’re very transparent with each other, so if we do have a concern or an issue, then we always highlight it. Honda have been very honest about the problems they had last year, for example, and have said how they got around them. We’ve done the same, so it’s been a really open discussion on how we can achieve our goals, but with all the data and all the resource to back it up as well.
“So I think it’s been an excellent experience. It’s been hard work because it’s a big responsibility, being the only team that’s working with a company as big and important as Honda, but I think the way we’ve done it and the way we’re working at the moment has been very positive.
“So I’d like to think we can spring a few surprises this year. There’s obviously a lot of questions and you never know until you hit the track, but certainly on the Honda side they’re working extremely hard and they’re hoping to start off in a positive way.”