Honda’s Formula 1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe admits that as they improve as an engine manufacturer, big gains are becoming “harder” to find.
Honda returned to F1 as an engine supplier in 2015, but after three torrid years with McLaren they joined forces with Toro Rosso for 2018.
But it was in 2019 where they took a big step forward as the supplier of both Toro Rosso and Red Bull, helping Max Verstappen to three race wins and Toro Rosso to two podium finishes.
Most notable were their gains in straight-line speed, evidenced by the drag race to line between Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton in Brazil, which was won by Gasly.
However, the downside of these gains is that Honda must now work “harder” and be more “precise” to keep on improving.
Speaking to RACER, Tanabe said: “We could show our improvement, our good positive progress this year, not only with Red Bull but also Toro Rosso.
“It was very nice for all the people working for this project and people in Honda. So I want to keep this momentum for next year. The development for next year has already started. And then we need to push more to achieve our goal.
“I think it’s harder than previous years. We need to be precise in every single area, in terms of hardware, also software and then trackside management as well. So, we keep pushing. The PU means the ICE, MGU-H and K, and all the systems, water and oil. Also tools, software, we have a lot of things to do. But a big step? Maybe that’s getting difficult.”
Honda’s F1 return was marred by the dreadful reliability of their power units, but 2019 marked a clear step forward in this department.
Despite this though Tanabe believes there were still PU issues at various stages in race weekends and they can’t be ignored.
“We achieved no Sunday race failures to stop the car,” he explained.
“It was good for us. But like (Verstappen’s) situation (in Abu Dhabi), we still have not a stoppage, but we still have an area to improve. Also we had some issues in practice. So we need to clean up everything from the race weekend.”