Max Verstappen says Red Bull has high expectations of Honda this season but is realistic enough to know success will take time.
Honda struggled in partnership with McLaren but after a year of progress with Toro Rosso last season the Japanese manufacturer will supply two teams this year for the first time since its return to Formula 1. Red Bull won four races in 2018 but believes a works partnership with Honda will boost its chances of challenging Mercedes and Ferrari more consistently, and Verstappen admits working with a new manufacturer is something he is eager to do.
“I’m very excited to just get started with the engine,” Verstappen said. “I really want to feel how it upshifts, downshifts, how the drivability is, how much power there is. And from there onwards, you just start to work together with the car [to see] what you can improve.
“With Honda, we’re expecting a lot, we’re all very positive but I think it also needs to take a little bit of time, it cannot be from race one it will be perfect. For sure there will be moments where, as a team, we make mistakes or it’s not going as we want it to, but I think what is very important is that the team and Honda, we are pushing really hard to improve the development. At the moment, I am of course very optimistic, but also realistic and I think time will tell how we are going to perform.”
Pierre Gasly will partner Verstappen this season after stepping up from Toro Rosso — where he worked with Honda last year — and the Frenchman’s experience convinces him the Red Bull-Honda pairing has potential.
“I’ve had the chance to have spent two years with Honda already,” Gasly said. “The first time was in Super Formula, so I went to Japan a lot, spent time in the country to learn the culture, to learn the way they communicate, the way they work and it’s really different than what we have in Europe so you really need to adapt yourself to the culture and understand how things work there if you want to extract the best from the people. And for sure this helped me in Toro Rosso as well.
“There are a lot of things you need to understand about them, and I had the chance to be there and be in the country to learn this, so for sure, I think on this side, this will help the relationship I will have with the engineers. But after that, we need to give them time as well.
“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. You fight against teams like Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and when you start a new partnership, it always takes time before things run super smoothly and in the most efficient way. So I think it will take time, but both Red Bull and Honda have the same targets and I’m sure they will manage to achieve what they want.”
The Honda-powered RB15 turned its first laps during a shakedown at Silverstone on Wednesday.