Verstappen hails Honda after Bahrain GP pole: 'A big credit to them'

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Max Verstappen hailed Honda for their new 2021 engine after storming to pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Dutchman went fastest in all three sectors as he finished almost four-tenths up on Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes at the top of the timesheets.

And while much of the focus has been the aerodynamic changes for this season, the significant gains Honda has made after bringing forward a power unit originally scheduled for next year can't go ignored.

“A big credit to them for the result today, they had a great winter,” Verstappen said after qualifying.

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“I think the turnaround has been very good and their understanding of the engine I think is impressive, and it’s really enjoyable to work with them as well.

“They are really passionate and emotional, which I like. They are just flat-out all the time. They want to win and you can really see that.”

In recent years, Red Bull's main problem has been slow starts, with Saturday's result marked Red Bull's first pole at the opening race of a season since 2013, and Honda's first since 1991.

And with Verstappen longing to finally challenge Mercedes for the championship, the strong early performance of the RB16B might just be a crucial step towards doing that.

“[A strong start to the season] is what you always aim for and of course the last few years, it hasn’t really materialised,” Max admitted

“But in a way, the regulations haven’t really changed a lot and I think we knew what our weaknesses were last year, and it seems like we addressed them so far at the beginning of the year. And of course very happy with that.

“I think it just shows that the guys, after the end of last year, just kept pushing really hard and also now, the adjustments that have been made to the car, they have done a great job, so really happy for the whole team.”