Honda F1 executive director Masashi Yamamoto says the first half of the 2019 season has been fruitful as they have closed the gap to Mercedes.
Red Bull switched to Honda engines at the start of the year and they kicked off their new partnership with a third-place finish at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but they were still well off the pace of the Mercs.
However, they reduced the deficit over the next few months and then scored their first win at the Austrian GP with Max Verstappen taking the chequered flag to give Honda their first win since 2006.
Two races later and Verstappen was back on the top step of the podium at the German GP while he nearly finished the first half of 2019 with three wins as he was just beaten to the victory in Hungary by Hamilton.
When asked by Autosportweb about the gap to Mercedes, Yamamoto replied: “I think it’s shrinking. At the time of the opening round, I didn’t feel that we could get closer to Mercedes. The developers of HRD Sakura (Honda Technical Research Institute) and engineers at the race site did a really good job.
“And in Hungary, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Max fought wheel-to-wheel at the front. What was very impressive was when Hamilton actually had to back off a move early in the race. That was amazing. If we had a similar scenario at the beginning of the opening race, Hamilton would not have backed off, but it would have been over in a few seconds. I think it was a fruitful first half of the season.”