Red Bull predicted to challenge for 2020 F1 title if Honda progress continues

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Red Bull and Max Verstappen can challenge Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes for the Formula 1 title in 2020, rivals are predicting.

This comes in the wake of an impressive Brazilian Grand Prix weekend which saw the Dutchman claim pole and then see off the world champion to take his third win of the season.

Most notable at Interlagos was the performance of Honda, which was greater than Mercedes and only just behind Ferrari, who have been the pacesetters on the straights all year.

Much of that was put down to the altitude in Sao Paulo and also their engines are slightly fresher than their rivals at this point of the year, but everyone was impressed nonetheless

“If they can bring performance to this car and Honda step up their game, Mercedes and Ferrari are going to be worried," Sky pundit Paul di Resta claimed. 

"They can deliver in qualifying now and if they can deliver in qualifying, they can then start to control the races.

“It’s up to Red Bull and Honda to give him [Verstappen] a car in Australia next year that can take him all the way through. He can deliver the goods, it’s just keeping him motivated while he’s this good.”

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The Scot's comment appeared on the mark too, as Hamilton himself noted the improvements by the Japanese manufacturer.

"The Honda's obviously made some big steps and it's great to see another manufacturer as strong as they are now," he said.

"It means that hopefully next year we're going to have a serious three-way, four-way battle and that's great for Formula 1."

At a time when Ferrari's engine has been under scrutiny, Sebastian Vettel, playfully for not, did wonder what Honda has done to close the gap so much, but his boss Mattia Binotto downplayed that angle.

“I am not able to explain what they are doing, I only know how we work,” he was quoted by Italian media. “Their speed was high, but to say surprising would be unfair.”

As for Red Bull themselves, the questions about the level of risk they were taking in partnering with Honda now appear a distant memory and Verstappen is as happy as anyone.

"I think Honda is definitely on a very good way," the Dutchman agreed. "Throughout the season they have been improving massively so I am very pleased with it."

It is expected the coming days or weeks will see the company decide their long-term future in F1 post-2020 and so to score a first 1-2 finish since 1991 at Interlagos was a very welcome result.

“I think it’s very important,” Red Bull Christian Horner claimed.

“Honda is seeing great progress and I think they can really see [the reward] after five years of commitment and effort. You have to remember how things were when they came back into the sport.

“I think that they have done a great job in keeping their heads down with great passion and pride to get themselves into this position.”