AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost believes Honda's "fantastic" work in the past months has produced an engine that is now "very, very close" to Mercedes' dominant power unit.
Following its decision to exit Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season, Honda brought forward to this year the introduction of an all-new power unit, throwing all its energy into its swansong campaign in Grand Prix racing with Red Bull.
Honda's efforts have yielded a unit that boasts improved performance while maintaining its strong reliability, progress validated by Max Verstappen's pole position in Bahrain for Red Bull and Pierre Gasly's P4 spot for AlphaTauri in the Saturday evening shootout.
"I must say Honda did a fantastic job in Sakura, because this new power unit is much more powerful and better drivable as it was in the past," said Tost.
"I think that Honda is really very, very close to Mercedes. And I can only say thank you to the Japanese engineers, because they did a fantastic job."
As Honda's leading runner, Verstappen just missed out on a race win at Sakhir. But the Dutchman's performance has prompted Honda to review the latter and see if it can up the ante in the upcoming races and perhaps dial in more power in race mode.
"We will review and consider this data," said Honda F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe. "We need to see how much the power unit has been exhausted in this race, and we will then use it according to the characteristics of each circuit in the future.
"We plan to verify whether this usage was optimal. Basically, I think that it can be used without problems, but I plan to think about what I should do to use it properly in the future.
"Last year, we were only able to win when everything went well," added the Japanese engineer. "In terms of the difference with Mercedes, I think this year we are in a better position."