RACE DEBRIEF

    Honda may be bowing out of F1 at the end of 2021 – but their re-badged power units will live on in Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s cars next year. And Honda’s F1 Managing Director Masashi Yamamoto admitted he would have “mixed feelings” seeing his units achieve success in either team’s cars.

    Following Honda’s announcement that they would leave the sport at the end of 2021, Red Bull made the bold decision to set up Red Bull Powertrains in order to continue to run and develop the Honda power units. And Yamamoto confirmed that Honda were now in the bittersweet process of handing over their technologies to Red Bull.

    “We have [decided] the overall direction with Red Bull and we are now in the phase of sorting out the details of how Honda can support the programme from next year onwards. We’re still working that part out,” said Yamamoto.

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    Yamamoto said Honda were evaluating how to support Red Bull for next season

    “Personally I’m really glad that at least from next year they have something that we have made. As Honda, we like to support Red Bull with what we can to give them a competitive power unit that means they can fight for championships. If we can give it to them then that would be really great.

    “There will not be any Honda branding on the car or the engine, so it will be mixed feelings seeing the car that has a Honda power unit,” he added. “The heart of the car is a Honda however it’s not really a Honda!”

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    Yamamoto and his team will have been pleased with the performances of both Red Bull and AlphaTauri at the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with those teams’ new Honda power units – previously slated to debut in 2022, but brought forward for this season – appearing to be close to or at the level of the class-leading Mercedes unit.

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain
    Honda appear to be on a par with Mercedes' power levels this year

    And Yamamoto opened up on the challenge his team had faced in getting the power unit ready for Honda’s swansong season – while adding that he expected to see Red Bull claiming multiple wins with the power unit this year.

    “In the very original schedule before Covid hit, the power unit was meant to be brought in 2021,” said Yamamoto. “But then Covid happened and that had an impact on development so we delayed it until 2022. Then things changed again because we announced we’d be leaving F1 at the end of 2021, so we brought it forward again to this year.

    “Obviously we stopped a bit of the development of the 2022 engine because of the Covid situation – maybe for a few months – and then we brought it forward again to 2021, therefore it was very tight in terms of the timeframe. The engineers in Sakura did a very good job.

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    Hamilton and Verstappen's epic battle in Bahrain

    “When you take into account the period we had available to us, it was very tough. But we have piled up lots of knowledge since 2015 [when Honda returned to F1 with McLaren], so I trusted the engineers that they could do it. We were sure and we knew that this power unit has more power, therefore we wanted to race with a better engine with more power, so our determination was really strong.

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    “Realistically it will be really difficult to win all the races or be strong on every single track,” Yamamoto added of the season ahead. “But we are communicating very well with Red Bull that certain races we think we have to win. And the other races we have to make sure we can get at least a podium – that kind of balance we have to get right and then pick up strong results in all the races.”