Honda’s recent results with Red Bull show that the gap to the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of power unit performance is closing, according to the manufacturer’s F1 technical director, Toyoharu Tanabe.
Max Verstappen won two of the last four races heading into the summer break, beating Charles Leclerc in high temperatures in Austria and then winning a wet race in Germany. The 21-year-old then took his first pole position in Hungary — another first for Honda since returning to Formula 1 — and Tanabe says the deficit to the other power units is being reduced.
“In the race situation there are normally a lot of changes in terms of the conditions, contact, tire management, pit stop strategy and overall competitiveness during the race,” Tanabe told RACER. “We have got two wins this year so far and that is fantastic. Then the pole position is a slightly different achievement. It shows the speed.
“Of course there are some situations during qualifying but it’s a little bit different to the race, so we could show some speed. Looking back initially over this year, there was a big gap to Mercedes and Ferrari. We are getting closer, but I didn’t expect that we could get pole position in Hungary.
“I knew we were getting closer but there is still a gap. Max and the team did a great job and we got the pole position, which is another strong impact for our performance improvement development.”
While Verstappen missed out on a third win of the season in the closing laps in Budapest, Tanabe says the overall performance is still a positive one for Honda.
“Actually we did have a great day and a great race, for Red Bull and Max as well as Honda. We knew that turning pole position into a win wasn’t easy but we did have a chance to do it. Winning is very difficult, and then the Mercedes teamwork — from the driver and team strategy — was amazing. But we’ll keep pushing for the rest of the season. The result encourages all of our staff.”