Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff suggested Honda may have improved its power unit after Verstappen victory in Styria, the fourth in a row for the Austrian outfit.
Red Bull's winning trail started in Monaco, where Verstappen took his second win of the season, but only in France the Japanese manufacturer brought its second power unit of the year. Since then Honda supremacy has been clear all over the field, with AlphaTauri's Gasly and Tsunoda bieng competitive in the midfield.
The Regulations say that the engine manufacturer is able to upgrade the power unit only for realibility matters, but performance updates are not allowed.
Rumors suggested Honda found a way to run the power unit in a more aggressive mode, but also to have had a 15bhp jump with the second spec.
“I'm very happy if it is true, but it's not true," said Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 technical director, at the Austrian Grand Prix.
“Under current regulations, any performance update is not allowed to apply during the season. As a result, our second PU is the same as first PU in terms of specification and the performance,” he explained.
Regulations also state that any tweaks to its power unit to improve reliability are set to be notified to all the other constructors.
“Under current PU regulations, we need to submit any changes,” he said. “[You are] only allowed to change for reliability or cost reason or logistics, and then we need to submit very detailed [information] to the FIA first, and the FIA approve those changes.
“The FIA distributes all documents to the other PU manufacturers, so we need to have approval from the other PU manufacturers to change any single parts specification.
“Why are we doing such a very detailed investigation is that a long time ago some teams, they improve their performance to make a change to improve the reliability.
“So we are very careful to change the performance. It is not possible to improve the performance during the season. That is my answer to that suspicion.”
The technical director explained the team has recently learned how to deploy better its energy management systems to maximise lap time.
“We have been learning gradually how to use the PU,” he explained. “We improve our weakness, and then we push our strengths.
“As a result, the base specification, the performance, is the same, but trackside performance I believe we have been improving.”
The fight for the championships - both drivers and constructors - is clearly an affair between Red Bull and Mercedes, with the Brackley team suffering in the last race weekends. Since the start of the season there have been a lot of controversy between both teams, from flexible wings to the pit-stop cricts, showing that a lot of elements are involved in Formula 1 car's performances.
“We keep analysing our position, compared to the other PU manufacturers. This analysis includes the chassis performance as well, because if you have a good car, with less downforce, sometimes you see a good engine power performance. So, it's a little bit difficult to judge,” he said.
“The current result shows us that still, we are not number one. But as I said, we cannot improve the pure performance, like ICE performance. Then, we are working very hard on how to use the PU efficiently at the track. So, we want to use current hardware more efficient with team engineer.”