Max Verstappen appears on track to clinch his third F1 drivers’ title consecutively this year, which could parallel a double constructors’ title win for his team, Red Bull. The team’s impressive run of performance shows no signs of decline so far.
Interestingly, the current wave of Honda‘s success in Formula 1 emerged following the company’s initial announcement in 2020. The Japanese automaker declared that it planned to withdraw from F1 at the end of 2021, which could have potentially put an end to Red Bull‘s aspirations, right as their partnership seemed to be gaining pace following a shaky early hybrid tenure with McLaren.
However, as revealed by Honda ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, the decision to withdraw actually contributed to the partnership’s success. The move marked a quicker progression in the development of superior power units for Red Bull.
Honda’s F1 project leader, Tetsushi Kakuda, stated that the decision to withdraw in 2022 led the team to speed up the release of the new power unit for 2021. “In response to the company’s decision to withdraw from 2022, we decided to launch the new PU ahead of schedule in 2021,” he declared.
According to Kakuda, consultations with Red Bull and AlphaTauri regarding the revised plans for 2021 had started even before Honda‘s public announcement of its withdrawal in October 2020. “They took a positive view and decided to introduce it,” he reported, expressing gratitude for the flexibility shown by both teams.
Kakuda attributed the decision to fast-track developments to a sense of engineering pride, stating, “We wanted to do it no matter what, and I believe we were able to contribute to winning the championship.” Honda‘s personnel did not want to leave Red Bull with a non-competitive power unit until the end of the current rules era.
Despite some initial skepticism within the organization, Kakuda has no doubts that this vigorous push toward enhanced competitive power was well worth it. He recounted, “At the beginning, there was someone who said: ‘Why do we have to put so much effort in something Honda won’t use?’ But in the end, we were all able to accomplish the job.”