Pierre Gasly says that whilst Honda are yet to match their rival power unit suppliers on outright speed, promising signs are emerging from their current-spec engine.
The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver has managed a very credible two top six finishes in his first full year in Formula 1, at Bahrain and Hungary, after a disappointing start to his career at the back end of 2017.
Gasly and Toro Rosso suffered numerous failures of their Renault Sport power units late in the season, ultimately losing out on sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship to the works Renault Sport Formula 1 Team at the final race in Abu Dhabi.
The Frenchman ceded that Honda still need to increase their power output, but the performance is better and “more consistent” than last year’s customer offering from Renault.
“On the driveability side since the beginning of the year, I think it’s pretty good and more consistent compared to what we had with Renault last year,” Gasly told Motorsport.com. “It’s more on the throttle and the torque you get from the engine.
“We know where we need to improve, in terms of overall power we need to improve it, but in terms of driveability it’s really good.”
Both Gasly and team-mate Brendon Hartley made positive remarks about the driveability of the Honda unit after the STR13‘s shakedown test at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, in February.
Whilst Honda have struggled at power-sensitive tracks, Hungary marked a pleasing change. Gasly managed sixth in torrential rain in qualifying, and maintained his position in dry race conditions. Honda’s F1 director, Toyoharu Tanabe, insisted that driveability is a “priority” for the Japanese marque, shown at the Hungaroring.
“Honda trackside support thinks the driveability is one of the priority,” Tanabe said. “They are developing it on the Sakura side, we have it here in the real world where the driver is our customer.”
“Driveability is the communication between the power unit and the driver, so we need to improve that area and it’s very important for us.”
Gasly said that the points finish in Hungary, just his third of the year despite sitting in thirteenth place in the Drivers’ Championship, will help inspire and motivate Honda to make further leaps in the second half of the season.
“It’s the best way to motivate them and to show them that we have potential to push them forward,” he continued.
“Especially just before the summer break, [it gives] a big boost to everyone and hopefully more performance on their side for the second part of the season.”
Honda will supply senior side Aston Martin Red Bull Racing from 2019, with Gasly set to make the promotion alongside them following the impending departure of Daniel Ricciardo.