Gasly says Honda step needed to fight for podium
Red Bull protege Pierre Gasly says he's banking on Honda to deliver a performance boost that will allow him to challenge for a maiden podium finish in the second half of the Super Formula season.
Toyota-powered teams have enjoyed a significant advantage over their Honda counterparts in 2017, having won all four races held so far.
By contrast, only once has a Honda runner stood on the podium this year, when Gasly's Mugen teammate Naoki Yamamoto finished second in the Suzuka season opener.
While Gasly takes optimism from his season-best fifth at Fuji, he says the 20-second gap to third-placed Andre Lotterer - stemming from a 9km/h top-speed deficit - shows Honda has its work cut out to catch Toyota.
“It’s quite tough with Honda - the gap in terms of speed compared to Toyota is quite big,” Gasly, who is currently eighth in the standings, told Motorsport.com.
“I was down 9km/h at Fuji, so this makes it really tough to fight against them.
“We knew in Fuji it will be tough because it has the longest straights. We knew we would struggle and in the end we got in the top five and the best result so far.
“Hopefully Honda can make the step during the season, for the next races, to improve the package.
“With a little bit of improvement here and there we can fight for the podium. But at the moment it is a bit difficult because we are a bit down in the car, we are also down in the engine.”
With Motegi’s long straights again expected to play to Toyota's strengths, Gasly added he would have to wait until at least September’s Autopolis round until he’s in contention for a top-three result.
“I think it should be better in the next tracks, the tracks that are fast for me,” he said. "Motegi is probably not going to be the best for us because of straights and big braking points.
“But Sugo or Autopolis are really technical tracks with lots of corners, and not many straights. I think we will definitely have a better chance to fight for the podium there. And hopefully for the win.”
Gasly also admits he has found it hard to adapt to a primarily Japanese-speaking team, making it particularly difficult to communicate changes required on the car.
“Communication is tough. When everything goes well, it’s no problem,” he explained.
“When we need to make things happen, it takes much longer because my engineer doesn’t speak English. He’s Japanese.
“I'm struggling quite a lot with the communication. With Red Bull we are trying to improve the situation because that’s how it is. We make the best out of this situation. But it’s not easy.”
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