Red Bull driver Max Verstappen officially became the first driver to break Mercedes‘ winning streak. The Dutchman achieved this by taking victory in Austria, and it ended an even longer wait for Honda for their first victory.
The Japanese manufacturer returned to Formula 1 back in 2015 with McLaren, albeit unsuccessfully. However, when they tied up with Red Bull, Melbourne 2019 saw their first podium since returning. Finally, at the Red Bull Ring, The Red Bull Honda went a step further by winning for the first time since 2006.
F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe admitted, “I’m very happy to see Max’s strong race. Just after the race start I was a bit surprised and then got nervous. After that his pace was good, very good. In the middle of the race I started to believe we could go to a higher position. Then, finally, Max finished the race in first place, and it was a fantastic day.
“I was surprised when I was told to go [to the podium],” he added. “I had no idea what I should do and that’s why I got to the podium later than other people. Normally you need to stay before the National Anthem – I thought I should be there for that but I was a bit late. But I joined after that. This was my first time – I was worried about what to do and no one told me!”
What helped Honda’s cause was Mercedes’ overheating issues with their power unit. As a result, they were forced to run conservatively.
Tanabe continued, “We were on the edge on terms of cooling. Of course, the high temperatures forced us to save the power unit. We tried to extract as much power as we could.
“I did not [expect to be competitive] like this, be so strong. From the previous races we could see a very strong Mercedes but sometimes we could compete with Ferrari. Differently, we showed the strongest performance against them, so I’m a bit surprised.”
There were tearful celebrations on Sunday night in Austria – but with Mercedes having won the first eight races of the season, Tanabe is already turning his attentions to closing the gap further to the championship leaders.