Max Verstappen feels his three victories this season helped Honda commit to Formula 1 for a further year, and that they are just one sign of the huge strides the manufacturer has made this season.
It was announced on Wednesday that Honda will continue to supply both Red Bull and Toro Rosso (the latter under a new name) in 2021, with the original deal having been due to expire at the end of next season. Verstappen has won three races so far this year and while Honda’s long-term future in the sport remains in doubt, the 21-year-old believes recent success has helped secure the extension.
“I think in general it’s better for everyone — it’s better for Honda and better for Red Bull — that this is happening at the moment, but I was never worried about it,” Verstappen said. “I knew what I had at the time and for me it was just trying to get the best out of what I have at the moment. I knew 2020 was happening anyway, but I was never really worried about it.
“Of course I think victories and podiums helped this year for them as well to have the confidence and motivation to go further, because if you don’t do that you’re really struggling and at one point a manufacturer will say, ‘What’s the point of being in Formula 1?’ But I think this year Honda have made really big steps.
“Of course they had a tough time in the beginning when they joined F1 but they have learned a lot and I think they also get really excited. But as they said it’s not only about victories, it’s also costs and stuff. So I’m of course very happy that they’re staying on board.”
Verstappen says the progress Honda has made this year has been impressive as it has never failed to deliver what it has promised Red Bull, while also making reliability gains.
“It’s always difficult to judge if they’ve exceeded expectations, but what I think is very positive is that we had a target throughout the year and we have always been at the same level or above the target, which we’ve never had before. So that’s a good thing. They’ve always been very honest in what we would get, and sometimes we would even be a little bit better.
“They’ve been working flat out and the improvements we have made with the last two engines was a big one. We are very close to Mercedes — of course maybe in Brazil it looked like we were faster on the straights but you also have to look at wing levels and downforce levels.
“I’m very happy. Also the reliability throughout the whole year — we have never retired from a Honda problem, so I think that is very positive. We lost a lot of points because of reliability issues in the past which were both car and engine, and I think we have improved both sides. I am very pleased with that because if you want to fight for a world championship you can’t retire on those kind of things.
“They made a huge step forward. We have taken five or six engines but they were all because of performance upgrades. So we knew of course we had to start at the back — or five or 10 places — but it was all for performance which would help us over the races afterwards. It was not linked to an engine just being worn out, so that’s also a good thing for next year.”