Honda Admits Surprise at Smaller than Expected Gap to Top Teams – Tanabe

by Paul Hensby

Toyoharu Tanabe admits there is ‘not an easy answer’ to why Red Bull Racing have been able to be as close to Mercedes AMG Motorsport and Scuderia Ferrari as they have been in recent races.

The Honda F1 Technical Director has seen Max Verstappen claim the first hybrid-era victory for the Japanese engine manufacturer in the Austrian Grand Prix, with the Dutchman also on course for a podium finish at the power-hungry Silverstone Circuit last weekend only to be hit from behind by Sebastian Vettel.

Since switching to Honda from Renault, Red Bull has been making good gains towards the front of the field, particularly in recent races, with Verstappen feeling he could have had pole position for the British Grand Prix but for a turbo lag issue when he least wanted it.

Tanabe was pleased to see the gap to Mercedes be as small as it was at Silverstone, and he believes the current package is not as far away from that of the current championship leaders as they thought it would be at this stage of the campaign.

“Maybe, but we need to understand which corner or which straight we have a better lap time or speed,” Tanabe said to Motorsport.com. “Then maybe we can analyse what is good here and what was wrong, what was the deficit in the past seven or eight races. 

“It’s not very easy to tell, it looks like the gap got closer compared to previous races – not only the race, but also qualifying. But we have not an easy answer yet.”

One possible answer could be the recently introduced ‘spec 3’ engine that has given all four Honda-powered cars a small power increase, with the power unit seemingly improving with every outing it has.

“The starting point was not too bad compared to last year’s first race with the new spec,” said Tanabe. “It means we’ve learned a lot from last year, and the calibration quality we improved from the initial running. We still have areas to learn at the track after the race.

“In practice situations and real race situations. we could learn a small bit where we could improve our performance. In France, Austria, Britain, we have an improvement.”

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