The Japanese automaker introduced a new engine for this year ahead of its end of season departure from F1, before Red Bull resumes development from 2022.
The new engine is smaller and more powerful, and Red Bull and AlphaTauri took a step forward judging by their performance in pre-season testing and the first race in Bahrain.
“I have to say Honda did a fantastic job at Sakura because this new powertrain is much more powerful and more maneuverable than in the past,” Tost said in Bahrain, where Pierre Gasly qualified in fifth place.
“I think 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.”
Gasly struggled during the race after damaging his front wing and floor in an incident with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo at the start.
The French driver abandoned his car with four laps to go, but his rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda finished ninth in his Grand Prix debut.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Despite leaving Bahrain with just two points, Tost remains convinced that AlphaTauri has progressed in all areas, although he admits that the midfield group is extremely tight this year.
“We have improved in all areas,” he said. “But we don’t have to forget our competitors too. If you look at McLaren, they have the Mercedes powertrain, they are very strong.
“For me currently Red Bull, Mercedes are at the same level, maybe Red Bull is even faster. Then I see McLaren coming in. And then we see what is happening with Ferrari. But we are close to Ferrari. and the rest. “
“It’s a matter of hundredths of a second. We got better but the others got better too. The question now is who did the best job? And I can answer it at the end of the season.”
He added: “I need two, three races to have a better image. But it’s very close and I think it will be the same game as last year.”
Tost sees no reason why the positive trend cannot continue in the second race of 2021 at Imola.
“I expect the same for Imola. Then we’ll see what happens in Portimao,” Tost said.
“But overall the car is fast, hopefully reliable as well, and together we have a solid package.
“The team is more and more experienced now. Fortunately, we haven’t had any fluctuations on the engineering side, which is very important, and also on the operational side, we now have a strong team.
“And we have two really fast riders. Pierre, with more experience, and Yuki as a newcomer, as a rookie, but I think he’s a fast learner and this combination should help us put together a package. more competitive as it was the last. year. “
The team claimed their first F1 victory as AlphaTauri last year, when Gasly triumphed in the Italian Grand Prix.