Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda can be in a position to win races in the future, believes Toro Rosso’s technical director James Key.
Honda have enjoyed a positive start to their new partnership with the Italian team, with Pierre Gasly grabbing fourth place at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Japanese engine manufacturers best result since their return to the sport in 2015.
Before joining Toro Rosso, Honda were partnered with McLaren F1 Team in a bid to push the Surrey based team back into success. The plan failed after three years with numerous issues relating to the engine resulting in the pair separating in 2017.
Since the engine supplier joined the team earlier this year, James Key told Speed Week that the Italian team are enjoying their working relationship with Honda.
“The honeymoon is long over,” said Key.
“The relationship has already become much deeper. The cooperation is exemplary.”
For the first time in the team’s history, Toro Rosso have become a works team being Honda’s only engine supplier. Key says that the challenge of being a works team isn’t what the team is use to but are enjoying it.
“It’s a challenge that we gladly accepted,
“We have never had the opportunity to work so closely with an engine manufacturer. We have more responsibility as a factory racing team. It’s a completely different situation to being purely a customer. Life at the track is easier as I find that Honda responds to each of our wishes.”
Since the turn of the V6 hybrid era in 2014, no engine supplier excluding Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault have won a race. Honda are the only engine supplier so far in F1 that hasn’t won a race. Their last race win came at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix with Jenson Button.
But Key believes that in the long run, Toro Rosso and Honda can catch up with its competitors and become race winners, with their big brother Aston Martin Red Bull Racing watching closely in the wing over a potential switch to Honda for 2018.
“Where are the rules that say the other teams can’t win?” Key said with a smile.
“I think it’s feasible that we can catch up with the best teams. And with a bit of luck, a podium finish is definitely possible. In the longer term, we want to get in a position to win races with Honda.”