Returning to the circus in 2015 with McLaren, the Japanese manufacturer suffered from a disastrous start with unreliable and poorly performing engines designed to fit the narrow rear McLaren.
The collaboration had aroused various kinds of embarrassments, with vitriolic comments also by Fernando Alonso (his “GP2 engine” pronounced over the radio is very famous).
A lack of results in the three years together led McLaren and Honda to decide to separate in the fall of 2017.
AlphaTauri – when he was still Toro Rosso – chose to switch to Honda for the 2018 season, with Red Bull following it the following year. Honda has blended much better with the Milton Keynes family, to the point where Sakura’s power units have finally managed to compete with Mercedes engines after the latest developments last winter.
This allowed Verstappen to battle Lewis Hamilton, beating him in the 2021 title fight.
However, Red Bull and Honda had to leave the Constructors’ Championship to Mercedes, but in Japan there is still satisfaction thinking of the Verstappen champion as the reward for those who believe in their technology despite the initial setbacks.
“Max Driver Champion is a great result for us, given that we have been in the sport since 2015 and have gone through a very difficult period of seven years, gradually improving,” said Tanabe, technical director of Honda Formula 1.
“Last year we were quite behind Mercedes, but I am very happy that we have reached this point in 2021, fighting for the Drivers and Constructors’ titles.”
World Champion Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Photo by: Erik Junius
“Unfortunately we didn’t win the Constructors, but I think the reason we went so far is because we believed in our technology, determined to do what we had to do to win.”
“We have worked tirelessly to develop it and win it. We have had the support of our operations group and our families who have people abroad to help us achieve this goal.”
“I talked to Sakura’s guys and I think there is a sense of accomplishment thinking of Max winning in the championship.”
Abu Dhabi was also Honda’s last race as an engine supplier, as it will retire leaving everything to Red Bull, who will take over the engine program to have it in-house.
Tanabe said the initial difficulties were resolved thanks to the mutual understanding between the two companies, key to developing the power units.
“We have worked with McLaren since 2015 and fought with them. Then in 2018 we worked with Toro Rosso with an open mind which led to a contract with Red Bull, which was very challenging.”
“I think we understood each other, with the riders and what we had to do to get the best result; everything has been put together and I think it’s a great moment for us.”
“I think it’s very important to work together as a company and as a group, we go out on the track every time to win, with support from Sakura and Milton Keynes.”
Additional information by Kazuki Matsumoto
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