Honda reveals changes to power unit for final season in F1

2021 F1 season

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Honda has revealed details of the changes it has made to its power unit for the 2021 F1 season, its final year at the sport before pulling out.

Technical director Toyoharu Tanabe explained how the manufacturer, whose engines are used by Red Bull and AlphaTauri, has rejigged its upgrade programme for 2021 twice due the pandemic and Honda’s subsequent decision to end its F1 programme.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we were going to introduce a new [power unit] for this year,” said Tanabe. “However, given all the difficulties and restrictions because of the long F1 shutdown, combined with the European lockdown and delay in parts supply, we had decided to postpone it to 2022.

“However, taking into account the decision announced in October 2020 that Honda would leave the sport at the end of 2021, we reassessed the situation and changed our plan again to reintroduce it in 2021.

“It was very tight timing to make this change but we managed to bring forward the development and preparation programme. At Honda, we felt that we really wanted to use all our technical know-how before leaving the sport.”

The AlphaTauri AT02, revealed earlier today, is one of two cars which will use Honda’s upgraded power unit.

“It is difficult to be specific about which parts have seen the most work,” said Tanabe, “but in order to improve power and reliability, we have made modifications to the ICE [internal combustion engine], turbine and ERS [energy recovery system]. This is our [fourth] year with Scuderia AlphaTauri and in order to improve as a whole, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire [power unit].”

Tanabe is encouraged by the new power unit’s performance in testing. “On the dyno the numbers we have seen match what we expected,” he said. “Let’s see how competitive we can be on track in the actual races.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2020
Honda ended 2020 on top thanks to Red Bull
Honda was the only manufacturer besides Mercedes to win races last year, scoring three victories with AlphaTauri and Red Bull. Tanabe said he is pleased the two teams will continue to use their power units after Honda’s departure.

“I think it is the right thing for Honda to do, considering our relationship with Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing, and how much Honda has benefited from those partnerships. It also reflects the importance of our role and history, as part of the world of Formula 1 over several decades. So, I am glad that Honda has been able to help the two teams and the sport in this way.”

“In order to finish on a high note, everyone in Sakura and Milton Keynes is very determined and we feel we have prepared well for the coming season in conjunction with Scuderia AlphaTauri over the winter so far,” Tanabe added. “We won’t know for sure how good a job we have done until we hit the track, but so far preparation has gone smoothly.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 18 comments on “Honda reveals changes to power unit for final season in F1”

    1. It’s a pity that Works Championship success will only come after they leave.

      1. It’s The ̶T̶o̶y̶o̶t̶a̶ Honda Way!

        1. Flashback to Brawn GP

    2. That tells a lot over the relations between Honda and Red Bull& Alpha Tauri and gives Red Bull the possiblilty of producing his own engines. Chapoo!
      This could be for McLaren as i always thought they would going make their engines them selfs i would say a missed chance.

      But 1 of the 2 cars get a upgraded engine that is for the test or the whole year?

      1. Only way I see McLaren winning a championship again is if Mercedes pulls out and McLaren becomes their de-facto works team again.

      2. I doubt it. There is simply no way that McLaren would have survived the kind of problems that Honda had when they had their power units. Honda has come a long way, but McLaren have too. This is a relationship that just simply ran its course. Had Ron still been in charge at McLaren maybe it might have works.

      3. 1 of the 2 cars get a upgraded engine that is for the test or the whole year?

        I did not read that from the story above, @macleod.

        Also this would not be legal as the PU will need to be homologated and all teams using a certain PU make will get exactly the same PU and software (with some exceptions allowed).
        There can only be a slight divergence when one car picks up a new PU earlier in the season.

        1. @coldfly, it’s in the story above us:

          The AlphaTauri AT02, revealed earlier today, is one of two cars which will use Honda’s upgraded power unit.

          That means 1 of the 2 cars is using the upgraded engine?

          1. the other car is the RB16B

          2. as faulty writes, it means that there are 2 teams (i.e. two cars) that get a new honda engine @macleod.

            1. ah Never learned to write English untill i visit forums and MMO If you ever know how long i take to just write 1 sentence. (Yes i spoke English long before i Ever wrote something)

              cars means teams i always thought 2 cars made up 1 team that is why i found it strange.

            2. @macleod Well then you are doing great. Not sure what your native language is, but I can guarantee you that you write better English than I would be able to speak or write your language, as I only have one. Good for you.

              Lower down in the article you can also see Tonabe say…”So, I am glad that Honda has been able to help the two teams and the sport in this way.” :)

    3. Honda should reconsider leaving F1 now that they have a fearless Racer like Sergio Perez.

      1. They already have Max, so it is obviously not about drivers.

      2. Now they have a decent number two like Sergio you mean?

        1. Not sure if that is directed at me or Jon but I would suggest that SP will have the same equipment as Max, so it will be up to him as to what degree he is the number two. I just don’t think anyone is touting SP as every bit the driver that Max is though, so let’s say it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to be on average a tenth or two behind Max. If that makes him a number two to some people so be it, but that won’t be because RBR will have engineered said tenth or two deficit. Max doesn’t need nor want that kind of ‘help’ but the team sure does want both their drivers ideally locking out the front row every weekend in a perfect world for them. At least that would be their ultimate goal as it should be for all teams.

    4. Great to read this. I had thought it had been implied a few days ago in an article here, that Honda was going to potentially have a nice upgrade for this season, and it is great to read the details of what they have been up to. And as I said the other day too, perhaps this won’t even be their final iteration before they officially sign off, and it is so exciting to read that they are keen to throw everything at this project ahead of them leaving. I think of it as them having a lot of pride on the line, so why wouldn’t they want to provide the RBR group with the very best they can ahead of the freeze that will last until 2025. I mean, it’s not like even though there will be a re-badging we won’t all know it’s a Honda. Great stuff. Very very exciting not just for RBR but for F1 and all fans.

    5. The AlphaTauri AT02, revealed earlier today, is one of two cars which will use Honda’s upgraded power unit.

      I wonder what the other car is (not).

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