Marcus Ericsson believes Honda deserves more credit for the progress it has made in the 2018 Formula 1 season after battling both Toro Rosso drivers at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Sauber driver found himself locking horns with the Toro Rosso duo during Sunday’s race in a fight over the lower end of the points. Ericsson ultimately went on to record his fourth top 10 finish of the season at Spa.

Honda has taken a solid step forward in engine performance and reliability since beginning its new partnership with Toro Rosso this year, prompting Red Bull to cut its ties with Renault in favour of the Japanese manufacturer from 2019. 

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Ericsson said the improvements were highlighted as he struggled to pass both drivers despite boasting a Ferrari engine in the back of his C37.

“I was in the DRS of Gasly at the beginning of the first stint but I couldn’t overtake him. I couldn't even get close to him with DRS, so I think that shows quite a lot that Honda has made great steps forward,” Ericsson explained.

“I still believe that Mercedes and Ferrari are the two strongest power units but then Honda is a lot stronger than they get credit for I think. That was confirmation of that when I was racing them.

“Like I said I couldn't overtake Gasly even with the DRS and Hartley could overtake us, so I think that’s a fact.”

Ericsson swapped positions with Brendon Hartley on four occasions in the space of two laps in a brilliant tussle over 10th place, with the Swede eventually coming out on top when Hartley pitted.

Having made a successful pass at La Source, Ericsson admits he was taken by surprise when Hartley out-dragged him with the aid on DRS along the Kemmel Straight to reclaim the position just moments later.

“I didn’t expect him to be able to pull past with the DRS but the Honda is better than many people think I think! So they were not too bad,” he said.

“But then when I cleared him it was all about trying to catch Gasly but our pace in the second stint was very similar.

“I think in the first stint we were a bit stronger but like I said it wasn’t strong enough to overtake and then in the second stint we were very similar, keeping the same eight-second gap the whole second stint. So not much to do then.”

While he was unable to find a way past the second Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, Ericsson feels Sauber ultimately maximised its result in Belgium.

“I think I’m quite happy with being in the points. You always want more,” he added. “We wanted to be ahead of the Toro Rosso here but they had quite strong pace in the race.

“We were very similar but we weren’t fast enough to overtake today. It felt like we maximised what we had after that first lap so I’m pretty happy with that.”

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