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Honda could be a match for Renault by mid-season - Key

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda STR13
© XPB 

Toro Rosso technical director James Key is more than happy with what he's seen from his new Honda engine partners in pre-season testing so far.

"They’ve just been super smooth to work with," he said. "We’re working together with them on optimising everything.

"It’s been very, very smooth so far and I’m sure that will continue."

So smooth, in fact, that he's predicting that the Honda power units might be on a par with those of Renault within a few months.

"I don't know what Renault have done this year,"he told Sky Sports News. But we had a good feel for where the Renault was last year."

"What we saw from Honda last year is despite all the difficulties they had over the first half of the season, they still had the capacity to go and develop the power unit.

"It definitely was better by the end of the year," he pointed out. "That trend appears to have continued into this year

"As long as that trend continues, there's no reason why they can't genuinely be challenging Renault by mid- or end-of season

"It's not so far off," he concluded. "Not nearly as far as was being suggested last year actually.

"It was probably pretty close to Renault towards the end of the season. And obviously they've made steps for this year and that's encouraging."

Key said that the team was allowing Honda to to set its own course at this early stage of their new relationship.

“I really don’t know how the relationship with McLaren worked and we haven’t even discussed it," he said. "Our approach is to try and give Honda all the freedom they need to make improvements on their side

"We certainly said to Honda: ‘Just let us know what you want to do and we’ll do the trade-offs and work out what the best package is’.

"We just wanted to give them all of the support and freedom they needed to go and get on with the job really," he added. "I get the feeling that they appreciated that.

"There were several things they wanted to try," he continued. "We supported them in that and didn’t push them to do anything particularly difficult for the chassis.

"Obviously you never know until you hit the track," he acknowledged. "[But] I have to say - touch wood - there haven’t been any major issues at all."

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