Pierre Gasly is confident Honda will be able to find “another step” in engine performance heading into the 2019 Formula 1 season.

The Japanese engine manufacturer has recovered from its torrid return to F1 with McLaren and has made promising gains with new customer Toro Rosso in 2018, leading Red Bull to switch from Renault to Honda power units from next season.

While Gasly, who will graduate to the Red Bull senior team as Daniel Ricciardo’s replacement in 2019, believes Honda still has work to do to catch current F1 engine benchmarks Mercedes and Ferrari, he is encouraged by the progress he has seen.

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“There is at the moment still a deficit with Mercedes and Ferrari engines, and I think it puts us [Honda] with Renault in a bit more difficult situation,” Gasly explained.

“I know that is what they are doing at the moment [working to catch up], so there is nothing more we can do.

“We know where we lack performance at the moment, they know it, they are really objective about it, and I know they are doing everything they can ahead of next year, testing things.

“I’m sure we’re going to get some updates for next year, not for the last race in Abu Dhabi but they are really pushing hard, so I believe for next year they will have another step.

“You can’t recover the delta within a few weeks or a few months. You need to give them time as well.”

Honda’s step forward in both performance and reliability led Max Verstappen to insist Red Bull’s data shows it is “not lying” about the potential of the Japanese manufacturer’s power unit, ahead of beginning its new partnership.

Asked when he feels Honda will close the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari, Gasly replied: “It’s really tough to answer, because the development I would say is never consistent.

“Sometimes you don’t find anything for eight months, and then you try something on the dyno that works and you find four-tenths suddenly. So it’s not like a consistent development.

“Maybe mid-December, they will find something that will give them five-tenths and put us in a better position. It’s too difficult to answer.

“I think now they clearly caught, not completely, but recovered a big part of the deficit,” he added.

“There is still one that I don’t expect them to recover straight at the beginning of next year, but at some point.

“I know they are investing a lot and developing a lot, so I expect them to get closer and closer, but I don’t know when they will match them completely.”