SINGAPORE, Sept 16 — Japanese engine-maker Honda bullishly said they could fight for top-three places next year with Toro Rosso after they were dumped unceremoniously by British team McLaren.
Honda Motorsport manager Masashi Yamamoto said it was a "shame and a pity" that McLaren had walked away from their alliance in favour of a tie-up with Renault.
But Katsuhide Moriyama, chief officer for brand and communication, insisted the future was bright as Honda enters its new partnership with Toro Rosso next season.
"Quitting F1 was never an option for us. It is our goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting with the front-runners of the sport," he said at the Singapore Grand Prix.
"Our spirit, Honda's spirit, is going to come back and for next year our goal is to fight for the top three at the front of the grid."
Podium places could be a stretch next year, as McLaren have failed to trouble the top three since they returned to Honda engines in 2015.
It is also unaccustomed territory for Toro Rosso, who haven't visited the podium since Sebastian Vettel's stunning win in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.
Team principal Franz Tost set a more limited goal of making an impact on Formula One's "midfield", which refers to the teams that usually finish behind the front-runners.
"I am convinced we are in a position to fight successfully within the midfield or the forward part of the midfield and the rest, then we will see," said Tost.
He added: "I'm 100 percent convinced Honda will make big steps forward in the near future. We are more than happy to work together with such a fantastic partner."
Moriyama also opened the door to a potential partnership with Red Bull, Toro Rosso's senior partner, who are rumoured to be headed for a split with Renault after next year.
"Our main goal now is to absolutely concentrate on 2018 and Toro Rosso," he said. "But if there is a chance in the future to supply (Red Bull with) engines, why not?" — AFP