Max Verstappen has little hope of muscling in on the 2020 title battle in Formula 1, according to Jacques Villeneuve, who says Honda remain incapable of producing a championship-contending engine.
Verstappen ended 2019 third in the drivers’ championship, with two pole positions and three race wins to his name, albeit 135 points behind six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman ended the season having used more than the prescribed limit of all engine parts as Red Bull took Honda’s supply for the first time. Sister team Toro Rosso used more engines than any other team on the grid as the Japanese manufacturer continues its push to match the output of Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.
And Villeneuve believes a continued reliance on fresher engines, and the grid penalties they bring, would rule Verstappen out of contention again.
Villeneuve told motorsport-total.com: “Honda can only manage three or four races with its engine, and you’re not on the same level [as Ferrari or Mercedes] because Honda cannot manage to race seven races with just one engine.”
The Canadian believes Honda would have to sacrifice engine power to prolong usage, but says Red Bull can still work around his perceived shortcomings of the Japanese power unit, hailing Adrian Newey’s “great” car design.
Villeneuve also credited Verstappen’s performances in 2019, saying the Dutchman’s mature performances came as something of a shock.
“He was on point for most of the season of the season,” Villeneuve added. “He drove focused and fast. He was a surprise, really impressive.”