Honda’s first victory since returning to Formula 1 in 2015 will be used as motivation to close a still-significant gap to the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari, according to technical director Toyoharu Tanabe.
Max Verstappen took a stunning victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, dropping to seventh place on the opening lap due to a poor start but then fighting through the field to overtake leader Charles Leclerc with three laps to go. The result was significant as it marks the first Honda win since 2006 and its first of the hybrid era, but F1 technical director Tanabe says there is more work to do.
“Of course this result encourages the members of our development team, but from the beginning of the season we could really see a big gap to Mercedes and Ferrari,” Tanabe said. “(Sunday) was OK, we were strong, but for the next race I cannot guarantee we’ll be a strong as that, that we’ll have the same competitiveness compared with the others.
“It means we need to keep pushing very hard, to get the confidence that we are strong and that when we’ll make no mistakes we will win. We want to have that level and need to keep pushing.”
Although his focus is already on how Honda can improve, Tanabe admits the victory was a special one and came as a shock to the Japanese manufacturer.
“I’m very happy to see Max’s strong race. Just after the race start I was a bit surprised and then got nervous. After that his pace was good, very good. In the middle of the race I started to believe we could go to a higher position. Then, finally, Max finished the race in first place, and it was a fantastic day.
“We were on the edge on terms of cooling. Of course, the high temperatures forced us to save the power unit. We tried to extract as much power as we could.
“I did not (expect to be competitive) like this, being so strong. From the previous races we could see a very strong Mercedes but sometimes we could compete with Ferrari. Differently, we showed the strongest performance against them, so I’m a bit surprised.”