Honda targets top three with Toro Rosso in 2018

Honda says it never considered leaving Formula 1 as its relationship with McLaren unravelled, and has set a bold top-three target with new partner Toro Rosso.

Honda targets top three with Toro Rosso in 2018
 Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12
Honda logo on the McLaren transporters
Sean Gelael, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12
Masashi Yamamoto, Honda Boss
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal and CEO, Sauber, Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager of Honda Motorsports
Honda logo on the nose of the McLaren MCL32
Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12

A string of announcements in Singapore on Friday confirmed that McLaren was dropping Honda early to switch to customer Renault power, in a deal that involved Toro Rosso moving in the other direction. 

Honda's chief officer of brand and communications operations Katsuhide Moriyami said there was intense soul-searching at board level in recent months but that staying in F1 was always a priority.

"For Honda, F1 started with the dream of our founder, Soichiro Honda, and we have a history of more than 50 years of F1," said Moriyami. "F1 is a very important culture and DNA of our company.

"It is true that we have gone through a tough situation now and nobody was satisfied with the current results, especially the board.

"We have gone through many discussions but quitting F1 was never an option for us.

"It is our goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting the frontrunners of the sport, and Honda’s spirit is to come back and next year our goal is to fight for the top three at the top of the grid."

McLaren and Honda had dominated F1 in the late 1980s but the current partnership has so far failed to trouble the podium in nearly three years.

Asked if Honda should have taken more risks, Moriyami argued that joining the hybrid formula when Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault were already established had been the main problem.

"We don't think the problem was not taking enough risks," he said. "We had a gap when we returned to F1 and just looking back the gap has been the biggest problem.

"To shorten the gap Honda has done the best we could, we have reached everything to speed up to a compatible level.

"I believe we have been able to catch up and shorten the gap but we understand there is more to be done."

Masashi Yamamoto, general manager of Honda's motorsport division, admitted that McLaren had been trying to exit its deal "since the beginning of the season" and that "it is for us a shame and a disappointment that we have to separate".

But he shared Moriyami's conviction that Honda could succeed with Toro Rosso.

"Although we do not have much time until the start of next season I feel we're going to have a good season and a good relationship between Honda and STR," he said.

"The spirit of STR is the same as the spirit of Honda. I believe we can work smoothly for next year."

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