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Honda’s Next Step is a Faster Qualifying Mode

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Verstappen in RB15 at 2019 Austrian GP
Photo: Honda

Honda is planning to introduce an extra engine upgrade for the 2019 Formula One season that will target an improved qualifying mode.

The manufacturer finally clinched its first win at the Austrian GP this year after a 13-year draught and a difficult road through the new hybrid engine regulations.

It came as a result of a new partnership with Red Bull Racing, which was first trialed with the team’s sister F1 organization, Toro Rosso.

At the Austrian GP, Max Verstappen qualified third and, after a bad start, charged from eighth all the way to victory. The Honda engine proved more able in the heat than the Mercedes unit, and was capable enough to beat Ferrari in a straight fight.

However, it has still been outmatched throughout 2019 during qualifying, when Mercedes and Ferrari are able to turn up the power that extra bit for a limited period of time to place higher on the grid. Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda’s F1 technical director, said that a better qualifying mode was “of course” the next step for the Honda engine.

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“Yes, we see a bigger gap in qualifying compared to the others,” he admitted. “In the race we are still behind but not as much as in qualifying. So it means the next step we need to catch up is a qualifying mode or something, but it’s not easy.”

Introducing a new upgrade later in the season means the Red Bull-Honda cars will need to take grid penalties, but that’s something the team seems to have expected from the start, partly because its eyes are not set on the 2019 season, but the ones to come after.

“We will continue the development, balancing performance and reliability. We want more improvement with some update in the future to support with Red Bull,” said Masashi Yamamoto, Honda’s F1 managing director. “Of course it’s including towards next year, but when it’s ready — when we think it’s got enough reliability and performance — we want to use it.”

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