Red Bull’s Christian Horner credits the “phenomenal turnaround” that Honda has delivered over the past two years for some the team’s recent improvements after Max Verstappen’s second win in three races at last weekend’s German Grand Prix.
Verstappen won in Austria to give Honda its first victory since returning to Formula 1 in 2015, and then was able to challenge for pole position at Silverstone before having a podium slip away due to contact with Sebastian Vettel. In Germany, Verstappen won a thrilling wet race that also included Daniil Kvyat giving Toro Rosso its first podium in 11 years – and the first Honda double podium since 1992 – and Horner says gains with the car have been matched on the engine side by the Japanese manufacturer.
“[Germany] was harder [than Austria],” Horner said. “It’s fantastic for Honda; two cars, two engines on the podium. Red Bull drivers past and present up there as well. It was a good day for us.
“We have been getting more performance on the car. The chassis has been getting better, the engine’s been getting better, we’ve got some good stuff in the pipeline for the second half of the year… so our target is, we’ve got stable regulations from 2019 into 20, whatever we learn this year applies to next year, so we want to keep the trajectory going the way we are.”
Helmut Marko set a Red Bull target of five victories in 2019. Horner said that he doesn’t share that aim, but insisted that the team is further ahead than it expected to be at this stage of its Honda partnership.
“I never spoke about five wins!” he said. “Helmut, that’s his objective and optimism. At the halfway point we’ve won two grands prix, which is fantastic, considering this is a transition year with Honda. For Honda, if you think of the results they were getting a year or two ago, it’s a phenomenal turnaround.”
Although Red Bull has traditionally been very competitive at the Hungaroring, Horner still sees Mercedes as the favorite for this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
“Hungary is a track that we enjoy going to, but Mercedes’ slow corner performance is pretty mighty and I think they’re going to be tough opponents next weekend,” he said.