Red Bull confident of Honda progress though Ferrari likely to stay ahead

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Red Bull head into 2020 confident of the progress made by Honda, as they target a first championship since 2013.

Any concerns of partnering with the Japanese manufacturer were quickly dispelled last year and the team enjoyed a successful year with three wins via Max Verstappen.

That has encouraged the Milton Keynes-based squad into believing they have a genuine chance of pushing on to fight Mercedes and Ferrari this season and, based on winter development, that hasn't changed.

"They [Honda] look quite happy," Red Bull boss Christian Horner said via Motorsport. "The engine made constant progress throughout last year and this latest engine is the next step in that evolution.

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"They've done plenty of mileage on their dynos. We've obviously been working very closely with them and the integration of the engine into the chassis.

"They share that motivation and desire of competitiveness and to really build on the three wins that they achieved last year and all the other stuff that came with it," he added.

"They're very, very focused on making that next step. The turnaround that they've achieved has been phenomenal when you consider where they were five years ago to where they are now. That's hugely impressive."

Also notable has been the relationship Honda and Verstappen have built up in the last year, something that encouraged the Dutchman to sign a new three-year contract extension until 2023.

“I was really excited to start working together and I haven’t been disappointed, I really enjoy it,” Max commented.

“They’re very focused and I think the steps they made throughout the season were very good. Of course, as a driver, you always want more, but they’re the same: they always want more.

“I think towards the end of the year, it looked very competitive. I think we were pretty close to Mercedes as you could see in Brazil, for example, the drag race between Pierre [Gasly] and Lewis [Hamilton]."

Verstappen is a little concerned that Ferrari could still hold most of the aces in the engine department, however.

“With Ferrari, I don’t know. I think there’s still a bit ahead of us. But I think throughout the winter now, [Honda] made some really good steps," Max continued.

“We’ll find out what the others have done, because they will also improve, and I hope we made bigger steps than them.”