Honda’s new power unit looks “very promising”, says Verstappen

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen says he is encouraged by the progress Honda is making with the power unit he will use next year.

The Japanese manufacturer introduced its upgraded ‘spec three’ engine in practice for the Russian Grand Prix and intends to give the new unit its race debut at its home event at Suzuka this weekend. Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said the upgrade has moved Honda ahead of Renault, whose engines Verstappen uses at present.

“I am very confident that when we start the season we will not be worse than Renault,” said Verstappen during last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. “We will always be in the same or better position.”

Verstappen expects bigger gains from Honda between now and the start of the 2019 F1 season. “I hope that already it will be a good step, I know already the steps they’ll be taking until the beginning of the season so it looks very promising.”

The Red Bull driver described how he has been encouraging Honda to make progress with its design. “Of course I always ask questions about a lot of stuff.

“Drive-ability, down shifting, energy deployment, all this kind of things. Of course the team is really busy with it now, analysing everything but it looks promising. They are working really hard to get the gains, they are spending a lot of money on the whole project which is really good.”

Verstappen exchanged critical remarks with Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul about the quality of their most recent ‘C-spec’ upgrade, which Verstappen will use this weekend. Abiteboul called Verstappen a “very demanding user” and told him to “focus on the car” instead of complaining about his engine.

Verstappen told his official media partner Ziggo Sport: “If he would concentrate a little bit more on his own team instead of moaning about me all the time, they would already be world champions.

“I don’t understand these things. He just has to concentrate on himself. I always concentrate on myself when I’m in the car. I don’t think that’s the issue.”

@HazelSouthwell contributed to this article

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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  • 42 comments on “Honda’s new power unit looks “very promising”, says Verstappen”

    1. I understand everyone’s reticence with regards to Honda engine good news. I also understand that Red Bull have a habit of tooting their own horn. But I believe this. It’s been coming. It’s been coming for a long time. I expect we’ll see at Suzuka. But if it’s true, boy, a three-way title battle next year would be epic.

      1. hahostolze (@hahostolze) According to Frans Tost the upgraded engine was worth 0.3 to 0.6 seconds per lap compared to the previous spec engine. Thats a very wide margin that he is quoting but lets say that it is 0.6 seconds in the Red Bull car then that still leaves them 0.4 seconds behind Merc/Ferrari. What are the chances that Honda will find 0.4 seconds between now and Australia? And even if they do, whats to say that the other two teams won’t find another 0.2 or 0.3 for the opening race of 2019
        I am not being pessimistic. I just can’t see Honda Red Bull fighting for the championship for another couple of seasons.
        Time will tell if our hopes for a 3 way title fight will come true for next season – or not.

        1. @angie Agreed. We should all hope the Honda pus will be that good next year, but I think if we did a poll the majority would be in the see-it-to-believe-it category. I do wonder if the STR will allow us to see an improvement as soon as this weekend…those cars aren’t exactly the cream of the crop…but here’s hoping. I would think if RBR can actually at least not skip a beat next year and be in the solid third spot that they are, with a few wins even, that would be considered a victory for them.

        2. Encouraged by what was most likely a double engine failure in Sochi. Okay then.

          Encouraged by the projections still putting them half a second off Merc and Ferrai. Okay then.

          Looks like Red Bull are doing a Ron Dennis. More nonsense to come next year Bullier style, and the usual delusion from Honda.

          1. Toro Rosso did not have an engine failure. And they weren’t even using the new engines during the race.

            Red Bull has been much less than a second off Merc and Ferrari many times.

            That said, I’ll believe this new engine is 0.5s quicker when I see it.

        3. not sure @angie; 0.6s from current quali times would be half a dozen poles plus front rows in half the other races.
          But of course the 0.6s is vs the previous Honda time, and not vs the current Renault time.

          PS – but don’t forget that RBR has focussed on race speed rather than quali speed during many weekends. They could find another couple of tenth on Saturday if they really wanted to.

        4. Hans (@hanswesterbeek)
          2nd October 2018, 13:38

          @angie Assuming that your figures are accurate – the last 0.4s can come from the RB car. Note that right now merc and ferrari are fully focused on this seasons’ development race, while red bull has already moved their focus onto 2019. That does not automatically mean that Red Bull will be better than merc and ferrari at the start of 2019, but it must give merc and ferrari an advantage right now.

        5. If Verstappens engine had been 0.6 seconds faster in Sochi then he could have pitted in the end and retain the lead.
          Starting from the back of the grid. Singapore would have been pole position, hands down. Etc.

        6. @angie
          I hear you completely, however I expect the gains for Honda to make to be much bigger than Merc and Ferrari as they’re probably at the extreme end of what they can expect power wise from their engine, everything else now will be around the aero. Considering the deficit Redbull have engine wise I do expect them to be better than Merc and Ferrari in the aero department. I wait with much anticipation on next years competition.

          1. Agree with those who said red bull is already close enough for such upgrade to be a difference.

            0,5-0,6 is a lot and we’ll have to see if they’ll be successful with this upgrade, but red bull has been far closer than a second off in qualifying this year and their race pace has been great most of the times, only a few tenths off, so…

    2. Verstappen told his official media partner Ziggo Sport: “If he would concentrate a little bit more on his own team instead of moaning about me all the time, they would already be world champions.

      Great.. nice to see a driver who is not a PR puppy.
      But if you listened to the Hulf, even he had direct criticism on the car and engine

      1. After Sochi Hulkenberg joined Verstappen in his critcism… and today headlines add Prost as well.

        How does that make Abiteboul look like….?

      2. Maybe not a ‘PR puppy’ @seth-space, but he should read Alonso’s memoirs to learn what NOT to do (burn bridges).

        1. Think mister Abiteboul is the one burning bridges here. Renault needs a Max, Max doesn’t need a Renault. Max is the only driver with a Renault engine that stood on the podium since Monaco. 5 times……

        2. The only bridge Alonso burned was his spygate actions. The rest is based on very bad choices he made in his career.

          1. I don’t believe he burned bridges at Spygate – McLaren brought him back.
            As far as Merc and Ferrari go, they don’t need him. If VET or HAM retired, they would take him back same as McLaren.
            I don’t think his choice to go back to McLaren was a bad choice – unfortunate is more apt.

    3. I love HOnda as a company and I am desperate for them to turn their F1 project round, but Max’s role as their number 1 cheerleader is becoming a bit tiresome.

      Yes Renault hasn’t hit the levels they needed to for Red Bull to compete with Mercedes and Ferrari, but that doesn’t justify his near constant sniping at Renault. Added to that, Honda aren’t exactly out of the woods just yet. In their report on whether the new Honda engine will race in Japan, Autosport noted that “the engine suffered from higher oscillations than expected when it ran on track, which mainly compromises driveability”…doesn’t sound as promising as Max, Tost and Co are making out.

    4. This kid should visit school at least to learn some modals. What an education he recieved from his fathers and teachers… He insulted legends of the sport, team principals, department responsables, the race director (Charlie Whiting), the judges. An he just began in f1!! If one day wins a championship will be in “god status” in his head! Good driver, an absolutely pr*ck as a person! He’s talking above his team principals (Horner and Marko) like he’s the one that should demand the engine team to work and be better. He’s not a team principal and will never be, but he already acts like he’s the boss of his team!! He’s going to have lot of troubles next year if Gasly beats him!!

      1. Got that of your chest Alex…? this is the one forum that could do without such comment… wich in general is just a ‘I don’t like Verstappen’ outburst.

        Love ‘m or hate, don;t matter to me, but Verstappen said nothing wrong about Renault or Abiteboul, netiher did he ever insult whiting or other veterans. He maybe was out of line again Connely after his penalty in the US last year, but that’s about it.

        Renault is struggling big time, Hulkenberg and Prost commented on Verstappen before the weekend, but joined him after the weekend. Verstappen is being straight forward, like a lot of Dutch are… some can’t handle the truth.

      2. I think you misinterpreted his comments. He has a more than customary knowledge of engines. He drives the car that is good minus all the engine-issues. Therefore if anyone can tell Honda where he’d like to see improvements it’s him. He knows exactly what is costing him time with the Renault PU. So he relays that to Honda. “Please try and make the engine not just powerful but also driveable”.

        The spec c from Renault is more powerful but the driveability is crap. The “faults” in the power delivery are making the great chassis less effective. So that’s where Max’s comments are going to help Honda. Making an engine that helps Max to maximize the potential that the chassis and aero have in them.

        And yes he has been stepping on toes. He is more than convinced he is an almost certain world champion if only the car is as good as the competition’s car…
        And he has had quite a few inconsistent calls against him due to bad stewardship. No need to be over polite if the guys are messing with the results by penalising some much more harshly then others.

      3. Except Verstappen almost invariably has a point. Even when he’s wrong – say about not giving Bottas enough space – I get his argument. It’s just he’s be wiser ceding a bit of space and ducking the penalty when stewards, almost inevitably, take a harsher view. He seems to be getting the point. Red Bull haven’t been able to mount a challenge for the championships because Renault’s engines have been useless. What other way to put it? McLaren hid behind Honda’s own failings – and partly caused the latter. But in Red Bull’s case we know the issue is the engine. Renault deserve the criticism and I love the fact Verstappen tells it straight. In a PR world of blurry vagueness and fake optimism, it’s a relief.

        1. “Even when he’s wrong – say about not giving Bottas enough space”

          Was he really…? After seeing the videos Verstappen initent het left enough room and explained himself way better than the FIA did handing him a penalty where others pushed each other completely off track.
          The rules say ‘the white line is part of the track’, therefore a driver is inside the tracklimits unless his wheels are 100% OVER the line…wich Bottas wheels weren’t. Bottas was leaning against the line therefore had about 30 cm room left.
          Bottas played it hard and smart knowing he could not overtake Verstappen he caught him making a ‘mistake’.

          The question remains, what is the exact explanation of the steward who kept Max from the podium for the third time in his career…. in all three occasions it was all pretty debatable.

          Mexico 2016, gaining an advantage outside track limits… Max gained zero (in time), Rosberg and Hamilton did the same
          US 2017, cutting the corner when Raikkonen squeezed him, Sains, Wehrlein, Hamilton did the same, Bottas went extremely wide unpunished
          Monza 2018

          1. Sorry if I didn’t make it clear, I don’t think he was wrong in principle, only that he could have given a bit more leeway to protect himself from a penalty while still blocking Bottas. Precisely what Horner himself advised. That’s why I said he tends always to have a point. But there’s no point being right if the stewards just aren’t going to look at it so generously – so adapt accordingly. If it’s any consolation, Hamilton suffered worse from stewards in his early career, including having a race win taken from him. To put it bluntly, he has to factor in a ‘steward-with-another-agenda margin.’ Because there’s always one (or two).

      4. Wouldn’t want anything less from a top athlete

    5. Although it sounds harsh from Verstappen, it’s the truth: Abiteboul should focus more on his own team that suggest Verstappen to do the same.

      It’s not exactly the RB chassis that’s holding them down right? With exactly the same PU, Renault is about 2% slower then RB so Cyril is in no position to say that Verstappen should focus more on the car..

      1. Adub Smallblock
        2nd October 2018, 14:34

        Totally agree! And to say that Max shouldn’t worry about the power unit is ridiculous! The car doesn’t move without the engine and it sure doesn’t win without a top engine. Drivers are expected and encouraged to provide their input and suggestions on all aspects of the racing car.

    6. I wonder if Renault will actually make a meaningful effort next year or will they continue with their rather insipid programme.

      They’ve been fortunate in some ways that Honda’s performance was so poor up until this year and have managed to mask their lack of both performance and reliability.

      They truly deserve all of the rubbishing that they have had from RBR and Max – their PU has been appalling.

      Hopefully they made some firm commitments to Dan Ric and actually intend to honour them or he’ll be in a world of pain next year.

    7. Even more ridiculous is that Abiteboul praised the Renault engine, because it had “achieved 2nd place in Singapore.” While everybody knows that was thanks to Red Bull’s amazing chassis/earodynamics and Verstappen’s great performance.

    8. Abiteboul called Verstappen a “very demanding user”

      That’s why Verstappen will be a champion, Renault, no.

      1. Renault has two constructors’ championships. Verstappen has all the potential, but so far he has none.

        1. but that was without Abiteboul ;)

    9. Abiteboul made a fool of himself by criticising Verstappen. That’s why Prost now is admitting the Renault engine is below par.

    10. See how large his smile is next year…. Good Luck Honda.
      But I suspect Renault are not only ahead but have the edge going forward.

      1. How? By outsmarting everyone? By outspending everyone?
        Honda is throwing more money and resources against this than Mercedes and Ferrari.. Renault has no hope of keeping up if they couldn’t manage before.

        1. I’m sorry for ricciardo for being at renault next year, but honestly he asked for it, at red bull he was still treated fairly and would’ve had a competitive car.

          In this formula 1 you shouldn’t really give up on a competitive car and play wait and see on another, look how alonso ended up.

    11. Good to see but Ferrari and Merc aren’t holding off enhancing there engines to wait for Honda.
      I think Merc especially will get as much an HP increase as Honda and expect next year will not be much the same.

    12. Agree – Tost making claims before the engine has proven reliable is irresponsible at best.
      Good for Honda if they finally are successful – too bad it wasn’t 3 years ago though.

      1. It’s the rule of: making a high power engine reliable is easier than making a reliable engine powerful.

        1. @maxv, it is often claimed that it is easier to make a powerful engine more reliable than a reliable engine more powerful, but is that actually the case?

          I would be interested to see if somebody were able to back up that commonly repeated refrain with hard data from historical examples, because I suspect that, in reality, it is at best a huge oversimplification of the situation, and in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually not really true at all. I can think of engines that were reliable where the power was increased quite substantially, and similarly can think of engines which were powerful but where it was difficult to make it more reliable.

          BMW’s engine programme in the V10 era is a good example of that – in 2005, when they introduced the requirement for engines to last for two race weekends, BMW did originally produce a new engine for 2005 which kind of did go down the route of going for power first, and then finding reliability afterwards (it would have been the P85, IIRC).

          However, in the end that engine was never used in 2005 – BMW found that they couldn’t actually make that more powerful engine reliable enough to last for two race weekends, so in the end they went with a modified version of the 2004 spec P84 engine (I think it was known as the P84/5), as they did in fact find it easier to make a more reliable and proven design more powerful instead of making the more powerful engine more reliable.

    13. YellowSubmarine
      2nd October 2018, 18:05

      Honda’s progress and prospects might be the real reason Alonso is leaving f1. Probably realised he would become the laughing stock of the paddock when Honda and Red Bull started delivering great race performances while he was still moaning – in a Renault engine this time.
      Grumpy old man…

    14. It’s become usual to hear Max praise Honda’s improvement after every good race he has had in the recent weeks. I have to remind myself that RB is still with Renault engines and not Honda..

      1. Max is not praising Honda (yet) but just saying that Honda improvement looks very promising. And that is as a native Dutch speaker too hard to call it praising but more as hope!

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