Honda is taking motivation from the strong start it has enjoyed to the Red Bull partnership as it looks to further develop its power unit following two podiums in the first five races.
Max Verstappen has delivered a top-four finish in each of the opening five rounds so far this season, scoring third place in Australia and Barcelona. Currently sitting third in the drivers’ championship, Verstappen’s performances have resulted in Honda’s first podiums since it returned to Formula 1 in 2015, and technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says it is motivating for the Japanese manufacturer to see such immediate results.
“Of course it is an encouraging start to the partnership,” Tanabe told RACER. “Max ran very consistently and strongly, which has meant he has always got the results in both qualifying and the race. It’s teamwork. The driver, Red Bull and Honda. So we joined with them and we can believe in the team and drivers, so it’s encouraging our development very much.
“Actually we always keep pushing. If you get some updates that add performance and reliability, as soon as the Sakura side and track side are comfortable and agree, we try to maintain the schedule and send them to the track. That’s the Honda style, anyway. It is based on a schedule, but only if you push hard, because it’s not easy to get performance.”
Honda partnered with Toro Rosso last season and remains supplier to the Red Bull junior team, where Tanabe also sees potential for improved results after a return of just six points so far.
“Their car performance and the drivers has been good in practice and qualifying. Then so far in races they haven’t quite been able to get everything together, so I hope we can get everything together because then we can get a much higher position.”
Those Toro Rosso points have come in four of the five races, and while both teams have been competitive so far, Tanabe says the upside of the challenge of supplying two teams is providing Honda with a clearer development path.
“It has been busy,” he said. “We have to think about the communication between the team, mechanics, engineers… But we have double the amount of cars compared to last year, and four cars give us much more data. It means this data helps our development, so it’s busy but it means with more data we can develop our PU more precisely.”