Max Verstappen says that Red Bull is not lying when it comes to its 2019 predictions with Honda. The energy drink squad believes that its upcoming engine partnership with Honda will allow it to return to championship contention.
Red Bull has struggled throughout the hybrid era and has never looked like a championship challenger. It has blamed much of its issues on Renault, who has been its engine supplier since 2007. The French squad has struggled over the last couple of years to produce an engine cable of matching Ferrari and Mercedes.
Honda too has struggled in its latest stint in F1, however its partnership with Toro Rosso in 2018 has gone respectively well. The Japanese squad endured a tough three years with McLaren from 2015 to 2017 in which it only achieved a highest finish of sixth in the standings.
But after seeing the progress that Honda has made this year, Verstappen says that Red Bull is fully behind it going forward: “It shows in the numbers,” Verstappen told Autosport. “We’re not lying or just putting something in the world which isn’t true. It also depends on how much the other people are going to improve as well. We have to wait and see.
"I’m realistic. I think initially we’re still a bit short on power, but it’s definitely going to be better than what we have now,” Verstappen continued. "For sure we will be closer. If it’s going to be enough initially, I don’t know. Then it’s all about trying to get the best results possible, to not lose too many points initially.”
Despite being just 21 years of age, Verstappen will take his 80th career F1 start this weekend. The Dutchman believes that he has accumulated enough race experience to challenge for the title, drawing an example from Lewis Hamilton who contended for the championship in his rookie year.
"I think I can [challenge] because I’ve done now almost four seasons, and Lewis Hamilton for example was fighting for a title in his first season,” he said. “Are you ready for it? You’re not sure. Was he? Maybe yes, maybe not.
“But once you have that car underneath you, you are definitely going for it, because normally you’re only fighting your teammate, because there’s always a bit of a dominance with the cars. It’s never 100% clear if somebody is ready or not. As soon as you have that car you’re going to drive it as fast as you can, and if it’s the fastest car on the grid you’re normally winning races or you’re second.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing