Honda chiefs have said the Japanese manufacturer is aiming to fight for the top three teams slot in the Formula 1 world championship with Toro Rosso in 2018.

After the confirmation of Honda’s split from McLaren and switch to become sole engine supplier to Toro Rosso in 2018, an unprecedented move of two senior Honda managers were put in front of the media in the FIA F1 team principal press conference as a show of strength in Singapore.

While explaining its ‘shame and disappointment’ at the end of its McLaren partnership while feeling optimistic for its new beginning with Toro Rosso, Honda chief officer for brand and communication Katsuhide Moriyama declared it was the Japanese manufacturer’s target to produce a power unit which could compete in the ‘top three at the top of the grid’ as early as next year.

Honda is hopeful of turning around its fortunes after a disastrous three years with McLaren down to unreliable and underpowered engines which has seen it lose out to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.

“It is true that we have gone through a very tough situation and nobody is satisfied with the current result, especially the board,” Moriyama said. “It is true we have gone through many discussions due to the dissatisfaction of the President and we have discussed it and how to improve the situation.

“Quitting F1 was never an option for us. It is our goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting with the frontrunners of the sport. Our spirit is going to come back and next year our goal is to fight for the top three at the top of the grid.”

Masashi Yamamoto, Honda general manager to its motorsport division, says talks between the Japanese manufacturer and Toro Rosso owner Helmut Marko began at the 2016 United States Grand Prix while securing Pierre Gasly a Super Formula race seat for 2017 but discussions about supplying Toro Rosso only started two weeks ago at Monza.

“From the American Grand Prix last year we met with Mr Helmut Marko and we’ve been having conversations regarding the Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly who races in Super Formula in Japan,” Yamamoto said. “I have had many opportunities to speak with Mr Marko since last year regarding the Super Formula and from the Italy GP Marko mentioned Toro Rosso.”

Yamamoto has rejected speculation Honda has shown interest in buying a controlling stake in Toro Rosso, after the team has been up for sale on a number of occasions, while the partnership is described as ‘50/50’ – with Honda solely responsible for the engine with Toro Rosso will construct the chassis and gearbox.

“I believe that Toro Rosso is a pure racing team and the spirit of Toro Rosso is very similar to the spirit of Honda,” Yamamoto said. “Therefore the short time that we have I believe we can work smoothly and successfully for the next year.”

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