Max Verstappen believes Honda were still hurting from the McLaren years leading to a “cautious” beginning to the Red Bull relationship in 2019.
Honda returned to Formula 1 with McLaren in 2015 and, after three unsuccessful years, parted ways.
During that time McLaren and Fernando Alonso blamed Honda for their disappointing results, the Spaniard going as far as to call the Honda power unit a “GP2 engine” during the Japanese manufacturer’s home race.
The end of the McLaren relationship saw Honda initially take on Toro Rosso before Red Bull joined the party this season.
That has already resulted in five podium finishes for Verstappen, including two race wins, as well as a P3 for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
With three of his top-three results coming in the last three races, Verstappen explained the upturn in form to Autosport: “I think the engine we started to take more out of it, because I felt like Honda didn’t want to break down.
“You can see we are pushing a bit harder, but it’s still fine.
“But after all the negative stuff they had at McLaren with all the engines blowing up and other things, they were a bit careful, and I think that is the right approach.”
The improvements, though, haven’t only come from Honda.
“Obviously we had our own little issues at the beginning of the year with the car not being exactly what we wanted it to be for some reason,” Verstappen said.
“We kept working hard, the factory also kept pushing very hard with new parts for the car very quickly, reacting.
“Of course Adrian [Newey] being on top of it, and I think very quickly we sorted out a car which was again really nice to drive.
“From Austria onwards, when we brought a few new bits, that seemed to be a turnaround for us, where we could finally really start pushing the car.”