AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost has praised the work done by Honda to deliver a power unit that is “much more powerful” and “very close to Mercedes” for the 2021 Formula 1 season.

Honda has fast-tracked an all-new power unit that had originally been planned for introduction in 2022 as part of the Japanese manufacturer’s push to help Red Bull win its first world championship title since 2013 before bowing out of the sport at the end of the year.

Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri is also reaping the benefits of the new power unit, which Tost believes is now on a par with Mercedes’ class-leading engine that has dominated the V6 hybrid era.

“I must say that Honda did a fantastic job because this new power unit is much more powerful and better drivability compared to the past,” he explained on Friday in Bahrain.

“We see now more in the qualifying and in the race, but I think that Honda is very, very close to Mercedes and I can only say thank you to the Japanese engineers because they did a fantastic job.”

AlphaTauri appears to have carried its strong pre-season testing form into the opening race weekend of the season, with rookie Yuki Tsunoda ending Friday seventh-fastest and within half a second of Max Verstappen’s session-leading time.

Tost is hopeful that the Faenza-based squad can now get both its cars into Q3 in qualifying, though he admits the midfield battle is tighter than ever with 15 cars finishing within a second of the pace in FP2.

“Our performance is as expected,” Tost said. “We can be, if everything runs well with both cars in Q3, but the midfield is very tight and it’s hundredths of a second, you can be eighth but you can also be 15th.

“I personally hope that we can get it together and both cars will be in Q3 and will score points on Sunday.

“For me currently Red Bull and Mercedes is on the same level, maybe Red Bull is even faster, and then I see McLaren coming,” he added.

“We see what’s going on with Ferrari but we are close to Ferrari and the rest. It’s a question of hundredths of a second. We improved, but the others improved as well. The question is now, who did a better job.”



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