Honda targets F1’s top three with Toro Rosso in 2018

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Honda has set its sights on breaking into Formula 1’s top three in 2018 after agreeing an engine partnership with Scuderia Toro Rosso from next season.

After three difficult years working together, McLaren and Honda announced on Friday they would be parting company at the end of the season by mutual consent.

Honda confirmed a new multi-year deal with Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s B-team, with the existing Renault supply used by the outfit shifting to McLaren.

McLaren currently sitting ninth in the constructors’ championship with just three points finishes to its name, but Honda believes it can vault up the order with Toro Rosso next year, ambitiously targeting a breach of the top three positions.

“It is my pleasure that we can start a new relationship with Toro Rosso, a team with a very youthful energy and a history of nuturing the stars of the future,” Honda chief officer of brand and communications Katushide Moriyama said.

“It is our goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting with the front-runners of the sport. Our spirit, Honda’s spirit, is going to come back.

“For next year, our goal is to fight for the top three at the front of the grid.”

Despite securing a works engine deal for next year, Toro Rosso F1 chief Franz Tost was more reserved about his team’s chances next year given its resources and facilities compared to the sport’s bigger players.

“Toro Rosso is not Ferrari or Mercedes. We have another infrastructure,” Tost said.

“But I can promise you that we, without our possibilities, will do the best possible job and then the rest we will see. It is not always and only the money which is decisive for the success.

“I hope at Toro Rosso we will work efficiently, because this is our slogan, and to get the most out of the package. The future will show.

“If necessary, then of course, maybe we will bring in more people, increase the infrastucture, whatever is necessary to have the success that Honda wishes.

“It is too early a sstage to talk about the details of the infrastructure. But I am convinced we are in a position to fight successfully within the midfield or the forward part of the midfield.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
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Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.