Honda 'never expected' to be so close to Mercedes in 2019

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Honda has been surprised by the progress made in closing the performance gap to Mercedes this season.

Despite the gains made last year with Toro Rosso, there was still uncertainty as to whether the Japanese manufacturer could power Red Bull enough to challenge the two main manufacturers.

However, when Max Verstappen passed Sebastian Vettel in Australia that gave great optimism, and now expectations are Honda's next upgrade could bring them within range of Mercedes performance. 

“I think so," Honda F1 chief Masashi Yamamoto told Autosport Web on if that gap was reducing. 

"In Melbourne, I didn't even think this would be possible. The staff at Honda Technical Research Institute has really delivered top work, I cannot say it often enough.”

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The last race in Budapest saw a straight duel between Red Bull and Mercedes, with the Brackley-based team emerging victorious only thanks to a superior strategy.

But to have been able to keep them at bay for so long still brought satisfaction to Honda.

“In Hungary, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen fought neck and neck with Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes, it was very impressive and Hamilton really had to do everything," Yamamoto continued.

"Earlier in the season I never expected that he would have such a hard time passing by, it would have been over in a few seconds. I think we have had a very good period."

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