Mika Hakkinen has praised Honda for taking the decision to build a new power-unit ahead of the 2021 Formula 1 season, despite the manufacturer being set to leave the sport at the end of the year.
On the evidence of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Honda look to have done a fine job, with Red Bull taking pole position ahead of Mercedes by a margin of four tenths of a second.
Max Verstappen was just pipped to the race win by Lewis Hamilton, but nonetheless it looks as though the title fight will be as close as it has been in a number of years.
Reflecting on the first race of the year, the two-time world champion described the Honda power-unit as the “best engine in F1”.
“Honda’s decision to build a new engine for this, their final season in Formula 1, took a lot of courage”, Hakkinen wrote in his column for Unibet. “A new engine can sometimes have reliability issues that take a while to resolve, but not this time.
“From what we saw in both qualifying and the race, Honda have given Red Bull and its sister team at Alpha Tauri a really strong unit. It seems to be the best engine in F1.”
On the potential for a close title fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, Hakkinen emphasised the importance of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez in potentially deciding the constructors’ championship.
“Lewis and Max’s team mates are going to play a really important part in this year’s championship because both Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez know they have competitive cars which means they can win races and play a critical part in the fight for the constructors’ championship,” he added.
“That’s why it was so important for Valtteri to take the podium and set fastest lap, while Sergio did a really good job to finish 5th after starting from the pit lane.”