Masashi Yamamoto says Max Verstappen is a ‘very important’ factor of Honda’s Formula 1 project, with the Managing Director of the Japanese marque likening the Dutchman to the legendary Ayrton Senna.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing moved to Honda power in 2019 after a number of years with Renault, with Verstappen securing victories in Austria, Germany and Brazil on his way to third place in the Drivers’ Championship. He also took six other podium finishes and scored points in all but two races.
His triumph at the Red Bull Ring at the end of June ended a thirteen-year wait for Honda to secure a race victory, the previous win coming with Jenson Button in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Senna took three World Championship titles with Honda power in 1988, 1990 and 1991 whilst driving with the McLaren F1 Team and took thirty-two of his forty-one career victories with the Japanese engine manufacturer.
“As Honda, we see him as a very important factor with Honda’s project,” said Yamamoto to Motorsport.com. “He’s young, but his driving is really impressive.
“It looks like seeing a young Senna, with his relationship with Honda. Max maybe pays respect to Honda. He feels Honda is familiar. And then probably the badge he showed on the podium in Austria proved that he was very happy as well.
“This gives us an emotion that we want to provide a good engine for him. Of course, all the four drivers are very important for us.”
Yamamoto has praised Verstappen’s attitude and says the Dutchman has developed a close relationship with Honda, with trips being made to the factories that involved interacting with a lot of the engineers developing the engines.
“The passion we showed towards winning made the relationship stronger with him,” said Yamamoto. “He also has been to the F1 R&D centre and our mass production site.
“There’s many, many people [working at those facilities] and he has actually seen it. He went through a tunnel of people getting high fives, like one kilometre long!
“That kind of thing maybe gave him a stronger impression about Honda, and a stronger commitment to Honda.”