McLaren parted ways with Honda at the end of 2017, with the Japanese company taking their services to Toro Rosso in 2018 and then also to Red Bull in 2019. This produced a strong 2020 for both teams, after Toro Rosso had become AlphaTauri, but Honda announced that they’d leave F1 at the end of 2021.
Despite this, 2021 was one of their best years yet in terms of performance as AlphaTauri finished sixth and Red Bull second in the constructors’ championship, with Verstappen’s Red Bull car edging the F1 world championship in the final race.
Honda have left Formula 1 with success, as the Japanese engine manufacturer played a key role in Max Verstappen’s world championship. But, the last few years have had many downs as well as ups for Honda.
Back in 2015, at Honda’s home Japanese Grand Prix, there was humiliation as Fernando Alonso criticised their engine over his radio.
Legendary – there is no other word for it – was the emotional outburst of former McLaren driver Fernando Alonso: ‘GP2 engine, GP2 engine’, the Spaniard shouted over the radio, after he had been overtaken once again. All the more remarkable is the enormous transformation Honda underwent in the following years.
Last season Honda won the world drivers’ title with Red Bull, while McLaren has a customer engine from Mercedes. Indeed, a very strong power source. But before Honda, McLaren was a sort of factory team and an engine was produced especially for the McLaren cars.
What if? That’s the question that has been hanging over the market anyway. What if McLaren hadn’t pushed Honda aside so easily and there had been a further development of the engines together? Would McLaren have been fighting for the title and not Red Bull? According to Jenson Button, who raced for McLaren-Honda, it’s a shame that the English team didn’t continue working with the Japanese.
From his own experience Button knows how difficult the beginning of the project was for Honda, he tells Autosport.com. Honda had a huge knowledge gap compared to the engine suppliers already present in Formula 1. The engine also had reliability issues in the first few years. Button thinks it’s a shame that McLaren didn’t give Honda a chance in spite of this. He also finds it very easy to blame the poor results at the time solely on Honda.
In Red Bull, Honda found a partner with whom it clicked. Moreover, the experience that the Austrian team had was of great value to Honda, with the title of Max Verstappen as a final result. Button says it is great that Honda won races again. At the same time the former world champion regrets that the Japanese left Formula 1 already, but he understands from a cost point of view.
Honda’s Formula 1 journey comes to an end in style as the renowned engine supplier helps driver Max Verstappen win his first driver’s championship.
Honda’s history goes back to the 1960s when they joined and won their first race in 1965 at the Mexico GP. While in the 1980s, they worked as engine suppliers powering both Williams, notably FW11 & McLaren’s MP4/4 up until the 1990s.
Their last win as a constructor came at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2006 when Jenson button secured his first victory as an F1 driver driving the Honda RA 106.
Honda decided to leave Formula One to focus on its overall aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Still, they promised to continue developing their F1 Power Unit for Red Bull until 2022, under the supervision of a newly formed business called Red Bull Powertrains.
It has already been revealed that Red Bull and Honda have reached an agreement to let the company utilize Honda IP to supply engines to their works team and AlphaTauri starting in 2022. From 2023, Red Bull Powertrains will take full responsibility for all manufacturing and servicing of the engines.
“A shame McLaren didn’t ‘hang on’ with Honda” “A shame McLaren didn’t ‘hang on’ with Honda”