In Brief

F1: Red Bull can be a title threat with Honda engine, say Mercedes duo

Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton expect a battle for the 2019 championship

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has “welcomed Honda’s resurgence”, Sky Sports reports, after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen secured a podium place at the Australian Grand Prix.

Red Bull has this season switched engines from Renault to Honda and world champion Hamilton says it’s good for the 2019 Formula 1 championship battle.

British driver Hamilton said: “I remember growing up watching Ayrton [Senna] drive the Honda [at McLaren] and they were a formidable force back then and it’s great to see them back up there. I hope that their reliability maintains so we can keep a close battle through the year.

“It’s great to see the improvement that it’s had for the team. They [Red Bull] were with Renault for such a long time and he [Verstappen] was able to pass the Ferrari.

“It’s awesome. The Red Bulls are there with us and I think we’re going to have a really great battle through the year between the three of us.”

Wolff is happy for Honda

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff agrees with Hamilton’s assessment and says that Red Bull-Honda are contenders for the 2019 championship.

Wolff told F1.com: “Honda has certainly made a huge step forward. If you look at the speed trace it looks a very different Red Bull than before. They are very fast on the straights and that is good to see because we want them in the mix and to have a great fight.

“I’m really happy for Honda. It’s their first podium since their return [to F1 in 2015] and they deserve it. They went through some really tough times. Seeing the Honda on the podium and seeing how happy the guys are is great.

“They were very strong. The power was enormous. The combination with Red Bull will become a threat. Based on the level of performance, you must certainly have them in the calculation for the championship.”

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