Max Verstappen believes that Red Bull-Honda have made gains towards the pace of Mercedes via the production of their new engine, but reckons they are still some distance away from matching Ferrari, who have displayed an extreme pace on straights this season.
Honda became Red Bull’s new engine supplier last year after the team opted to terminate their partnership with Renault, and since then the new relationship appears to be paying dividends, with Verstappen sitting third in the driver’s championship.
Ferrari displayed their new pace in pre-season testing and although they have had an abject start to the season with no wins from three, the power of their new engine is apparent.
When asked to compare Honda to Mercedes and Ferrari, Verstappen said:
"It depends where you look at. Compared to Mercedes, yes, but compared to Ferrari it's big, but it's for everyone. It's really big. It just seems they did a really good job with something, so you just have to work harder to try to close that gap.
Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) April 25, 2019
"I think we are closer to Mercedes, but it's always difficult to really say if it's better, because everybody is always improving. For our side at the moment is that we are able to maximise the result all the time, which has been a third and twice fourth, without retiring, so that is sometimes more important than maybe gaining a tenth but then breaking down all the time.
"I think in the race in general we are a bit more competitive so again, in qualifying it's mainly just Ferrari that stands out, like it's massive.
The Dutchman doesn’t mention specifics about how Ferrari have gained so much speed, but thinks they can provide a benchmark for Honda to aim towards.
"Like I said before, they found something there that really works, so it's good because it gives motivation to Honda to work even harder, which they do anyway,” he added.
Verstappen will receive an engine upgrade ahead of the Azerbaijan GP this weekend.