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Horner: Honda have given us a great product

The joy and delight were palpable, as Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner and Honda Motorsports General Manager Masashi Yamamoto headed to the Albert Park podium to celebrate Max Verstappen’s third place at the 2019 season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

It was a big day for the partnership, a gamble to a certain extent for the energy drinks organisation which got off to a very encouraging start for all concerned, while no doubt piling agony on McLaren for obvious reasons.

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The Japanese auto-giant was finally back on the podium after an eleven-year absence, adding to the 174 podiums celebrated by Honda-powered drivers over the years.

After running the gauntlet of high fives, bear hugs and big smiles, Horner summed up the sentiment in his team, “A great day for us to get a podium. Max’s drive, his pass on Seb, was a fantastic performance and to get a podium with a new power unit is a dream start.”

“Honda have given us a great product, the engine has been reliable and given us good power. “We’ve performed in the race and were more competitive then we felt we would be on Friday.”

“It looked like we had a quicker car than Lewis in the second half of the race and to do that here is very encouraging for us.”

Indeed late in the race, after effortlessly despatching of Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel to take third place, Verstappen chased down the second placed Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton but was a lap short of making a proper stab at it.

Afterwards, the World Champion claimed he had the #33 Red Bull covered.

In the wake of the race Down Under, pundits are describing the Melbourne episode as an “anomaly” while claiming that Bahrain is where the real pecking order will re-establish itself.

Buying into the theory, Horner explained. “Bahrain is a completely different track. We all came here expecting to be trounced by Ferrari.”

“So Bahrain I’ve got no idea what is going to happen. This is Honda’s first podium since Rubens Barrichello in 2008 so they have great motivation too.”

“With the fastest lap, we were even wondering if we take it with Pierre, who was not in the top 10, just to take it away from everyone else. It added an element which was really interesting.”

While Verstappen shone, splitting the Ferrari duo in qualifying to claim fourth on the grid and the next day got to celebrate on the podium, his newly promoted teammate Pierre Gasly had a forgettable debut for the senior team.

They did him no favours, botching his Q1 with an over-optimistic strategy which kept him in the pits and as a resulted relegated him down the order to 17th.

Then, on race day, he never found the sweet spot, perhaps over cautiously he laboured to 11th place, unable to find a way past Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso. He spent much of the race behind the Russian without finding a way past.

On Gasly’s perfromance, Horner said, “I thought he drove a good race, it is a very difficult race to overtake at. It is still early days for him, there is always pressure. His feedback is strong, we just have to give the kid a bit of time and it will come good for him.”

Big Question: Have Honda overtaken Renault?