Honda to be ’a force’ in 2019 - Hakkinen
"We still see a clear difference to the best teams"
Red Bull-Honda looks set to be a "force" in formula one.
That is the view of former two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen, who applauded Honda’s first podium since the Japanese manufacturer returned to F1 in 2015.
The works McLaren-Honda partnership was an utter failure, but in the first Honda-powered race for Red Bull in Australia, Max Verstappen finished on the podium.
"It takes some pressure off us," Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda’s technical boss, is quoted by Diario Sport.
However, he warned that it will take Red Bull-Honda some time before it is ready to win.
"We still see a clear difference to the best teams," he said. "The podium does not change any objective or expectation.
"The result of the race gives us hope, but (Melbourne was the result of) a combination of the characteristics of the car, the driver and the track.
"It is not easy to know where our current performance is. Each time it’s a different circuit and in the next race we may be in a different position," the Japanese added.
But Dutchman Verstappen is happy so far with his podium, including the overtake on Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel that was done with Honda’s new ’party mode’ setting.
"For Honda it was super nice to be able to overtake a Ferrari on track," he told verstappen.nl.
But Verstappen also told Ziggo Sport that Red Bull needs to work on the car.
"The car was not quite the best in the medium corners. In fourth-fifth gear it can be better," he said.
Former McLaren driver Hakkinen, though, welcomed Honda’s push towards the front.
"It has taken four difficult years of development, and the fact that Max Verstappen was able to achieve it by overtaking the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel was pretty special," he wrote in his Unibet column.
"It is clear that Red Bull-Honda will be a force in this year’s world championship," said Hakkinen.