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Honda Happy About F1 Progress, But Wants More

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Toro Rosso at start of 2019 Hungarian GP
Photo: Honda

Honda F1’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says the 2019 Formula One season has so far gone better than he had expected, but he also admits the manufacturer still has ground to make up relative to Mercedes and Ferrari.

“When we started the Barcelona test and the first race, early in the season, I saw a big gap between our performance and the top runners’ performance,” he said. After introducing two new upgrades in the first half of the season, Honda has made substantial progress, winning two races, but Tanabe says Honda still has work to do.

“We kept pushing and working very hard to reduce the gap, but it’s still there,” he said. “So far, [it has gone] better than I expected. But our desire is more than the current results. I know it’s not easy. We have the team, driver and engine working well, and can achieve our goal. That’s what I’m thinking now.”

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When Red Bull announced it would stop working with long-time partner Renault in favor of Honda, many parties had questioned the decision — including driver Daniel Ricciardo, who left the team. But so far Honda has delivered with both reliability and performance improvements on its engine. Most would agree that it has already surpassed Renault and that, while still behind the frontrunners, Honda is closer than it has ever been since returning to F1 in 2015.

The people at Honda certainly seem happier than they did while working with McLaren. “It’s a little difficult to show you my mind, but actually I am very happy!” the usually reserved Tanabe said. “People are working very hard at Sakura and there are many people watching us inside of Honda.”

“The first win is one of the milestones,” he said in reference to Verstappen’s victory in Austria, which was followed by Honda’s best F1 result in 27 years. “But our target is higher. I’m very happy, but we don’t stop. Always another, another, one more. The goal is the championship.”

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