Despite having initial reservations that it could be achieved, Honda F1 executive director Masashi Yamamoto believes that his team have closed the performance gap to Mercedes for their customers, Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
Ahead of the 2019 campaign, Red Bull ditched engine provider Renault in favour of Honda. It was assumed there would be initial teething problems in the new relationship, and although there was, slightly, the team have enjoyed success in 2019.
At the Austrian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen won for Red Bull, allowing Honda to celebrate their first F1 victory in 13 years.
Red Bull went from strength to strength after that and also won in Germany, and Yamamoto believes this proves they have bridged the power gap to Mercedes.
“I think it’s shrinking. At the time of the opening round, I didn’t feel that we could get closer to Mercedes. The developers of HRD Sakura (Honda Technical Research Institute) and engineers at the race site did a really good job,” the Japanese engineer told Autosportweb.
Yamamoto mentioned the Hungarian GP, won by Lewis Hamilton, as an example of Red Bull and Mercedes’ cars matching up, even though Verstappen was ultimately unsuccessful in the end.
“And in Hungary, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Max fought wheel-to-wheel at the front. What was very impressive was when Hamilton actually had to back off a move early in the race,” he added.
“That was amazing. If we had a similar scenario at the beginning of the opening race, Hamilton would not have backed off, but it would have been over in a few seconds. I think it was a fruitful first half of the season.”
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