Red Bull Toro Rosso-Honda team principal, Franz Tost is “convinced” Honda power will propel the Italian team “to the front of the midfield”, in 2018, and overtake the McLaren F1 Team in the process.
During the off-season, Toro Rosso and McLaren swapped power unit suppliers after the latter decided to end its partnership with Honda after three seasons, taking Toro Rosso’s supply of Renault power units instead.
Since the Japanese manufacturer returned to F1 as ‘exclusive supplier’ to McLaren ahead of the 2015 Formula 1 season, it has struggled to hit performance and reliability targets, which ultimately forced McLaren to sever ties at the end of the ’17 season.
Despite the negative perception of Honda’s power unit, Tost believes that the progress made over the winter, shows an upward trajectory.
“We are happy with the Honda engine, which is doing a fantastic job,” explained Tost to Sky Sports during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“I am convinced they will supply us with a very competitive package, and that during the season we will catch up and by the end of the season, we will have a very competitive car.
“Our target is to be in the front part of the midfield.”
In typical fashion, looking back on the McLaren-Honda partnership, Tost also said, “I don’t care about McLaren.
“I am convinced that by the end we will have a more competitive package than them.”
Testing was strong for the new alliance, as the Honda power units ran reliably and afforded race drivers Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly the chance to extensively test the new STR13.
Toro Rosso-Honda important for the future
The performance of Toro Rosso and the reliability of Honda in ’18 will be closely monitored by the parent team, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
Red Bull have been informed by its current power unit supplier, Renault, that it wishes to end the partnership at the end of the current season, leaving the team searching for a new supplier.
The most logical scenario would see a Honda power unit bolted into the back of the RB15 in ’19, and Toro Rosso lose the ‘works’ status it has acquired from joining forces with Honda.