AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost believes that Honda have just about reached the point of being able to match Mercedes power, just months before the Japanese manufacturer packs its bags to leave Formula 1 behind.
Honda, who entered the sport as an engine manufacturer in 2015 with McLaren some seven years after leaving as a constructor, have been improving year on year ever since. Switching from a disastrous partnership with McLaren to Red Bull in 2019, the combination won their first race in Austria and have become a genuine title contender in 2021.
AlphaTauri, Red Bull's junior team, have also won a race with Honda power and, just months away from the company leaving the sport once again, team boss Franz Tost has praised the progress made to make the engine genuinely competitive.
"Honda did a very good job over the winter. And last year too," Tost told Auto Motor und Sport.
"They have caught up extremely in terms of both performance and durability. It is really a shame that they are quitting now because they have reached a really great level. If they had continued to concentrate, I believe that, sooner or later, the engine would have caught up with Mercedes, or even better."
With Honda appearing to trail Mercedes slightly on outright power, as seen during the Portuguese GP where the two Mercedes cars had a straightline speed advantage over Max Verstappen, Tost said Honda are only marginally off the benchmark
"It depends on the track," he explained.
"And it depends on the power unit management. That means how the individual units are used, i.e. the MGU-K, MGU-H, the motor and, above all, the battery. I think Mercedes is still the benchmark here."