AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost says the Honda power unit is now a very close competitor for the Mercedes engine.
Over the winter though Honda seem to have made real progress in this department, backed up by the strong performances of both Red Bull and AlphaTauri at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
And Tost believes the Honda PU is now operating at a level very close to the Mercedes one.
“I must say Honda did a fantastic job in Sakura, because this new power unit is much more powerful and better drivable as it was in the past,” he said, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“I think that Honda is really very, very close to Mercedes. And I can only say thank you to the Japanese engineers, because they did a fantastic job.”
Tost believes AlphaTauri have also improved on their side in “every aspect”, making that new power unit even more effective.
“We improved in every aspect, but we must not forget our competitors as well. If you look to McLaren, they have the Mercedes power unit, they are very strong,” he explained.
“For me, currently, Red Bull, Mercedes are on the same level, maybe Red Bull is even faster. Then I see McLaren coming. And we see then what’s going on with Ferrari. But we are close to Ferrari and to the rest.
“It’s a question of hundredths of a second. We improved but the others improved as well. The question is now who did a better job? And this I can answer at the end of the season.
“I need two, three races to get a better picture. But it’s very tight and I think it will be the same game as last year.
“I expect the same for Imola. We will then see what’s going on in Portimao. But generally speaking the car is fast, hopefully also reliable, and we have a strong package together.”
Along with the rebranding from Toro Rosso to AlphaTauri, Red Bull said the outfit had become a sister team rather than a junior one.
Pierre Gasly is contesting his fourth full season in Formula 1, and Tost believes the team are benefiting from a greater experience level throughout.
“The team is becoming more experienced now. We fortunately didn’t have any fluctuation from the engineering side, which is very important, and also on the operational side we have a strong crew together now,” he said.
“And we have two real fast drivers. Pierre, with more experience, and Yuki as a newcomer, as a rookie, but I think that he is learning fast and this combination should help us to bring together a more competitive package as it was last year.”