The performance gains Honda was able to make during 2019 was a highlight of the new partnership with Red Bull, according to team principal Christian Horner.
Honda supplied Toro Rosso in 2018 following its split from McLaren, and duly made gains in terms of both reliability and performance. However, there was still uncertainty around how competitive the Japanese manufacturer would be at the front of the grid as it joined forces with Red Bull last season. But after three victories and two pole positions this season, Horner admits the level exceeded what he had been expecting.
“It really has been beyond expectation and in many respects, the relationship with Honda has been fantastic — the reliability, the performance increased with each engine — it’s been very much a highlight,” Horner said. “I think the way Max (Verstappen) has driven as well has been very, very positive.
“We obviously had the driver change halfway through the year, and I think that was the right thing to do. I think Alex (Albon) has earned his seat in the car for next year, and we go into the winter on the back of a very promising result in Abu Dhabi, with a lot of motivation.”
That performance level has led to increased expectations that Red Bull can mount a title challenge next year, and Horner insists there is no trend to Red Bull starting seasons off the pace and having to catch up in recent seasons.
“I think if you look at 2018, (starting slowly) wasn’t the case. I think the key that we have going into next year is we have stability of regulations. So theoretically, the car that you see in three months will be an upgrade of the cars that (ended 2019).
“It would be very unusual for any team to completely abandon a concept. And it feels like we’re on the right trajectory. So unless we’ve missed something, hopefully we can be competitive from the start of next season.”