Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team principal Christian Horner says that the outfit's first season with Honda power in 2019 has been "beyond expectations".
Although Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko had predicted five Grand Prix wins for the team in 2019 Horner was more circumspect prior to the season.
Max Verstappen won three races and finished third in the world championship, while the team maintained its third place in the constructors' table, albeit with 417 points compared to the 419 it logged in 2018.
That was due mainly to the first part of the year, the team scoring more regularly with Alex Albon following his addition following the summer break in place of Pierre Gasly.
"I think it's been a transitionary year for the team," said Horner when asked by Autosport.
"It was always going to be - the first engine [manufacturer] change we've had in 13 years.
"And the partnership with Honda has worked tremendously well, from the first race, the podium in Melbourne.
"You know, with each engine has been introduced, we're getting better and better.
"Reliability has been been strong. We've only had one mechanical DNF this year, in Azerbaijan [with Gasly], and with each engine introduction, we've got closer and closer to the pace.
"The three pole positions, albeit we only kept two of them [Verstappen lost pole in Mexico for a yellow flag infringement], three victories.
"Nine podiums is a really impressive performance this year.
"This is really has been beyond expectation and in many respects, the relationship with Honda has been fantastic, the reliability, the performance increased with each engine.
"It's been very much a highlight."
Honda recently revealed it would remain as Red Bull and Honda's engine supplier until at least the end of the 2021 season, havuing previously only being confirmed to the end of 2020.
Regarding prospects for next season, Horner added: "I think with stability of the regulations going into 2020 hopefully we can be the challenger team next year.
"Mercedes has had another very strong year, very much the benchmark still, and it feels like we're definitely getting closer.
"I think generally we've developed the car well this year.
"I think Honda have done a great job with each each introduction on the on the power unit, but we know there's still a gap to close to Mercedes, and we have to keep pushing."
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