Honda’s “never give up” path from embarrassment to champions in fourth F1 stint

2021 F1 season review

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Honda’s fourth and possibly final spell as a Formula 1 manufacturer ended on a high – one which looked distinctly unlikely when it struggled on its return to the sport in 2015.

Honda was the last manufacturer to take a chance on developing an F1 power unit to the current V6 hybrid turbo regulations. It is also the first of those to leave, citing the need to refocus its research and development efforts on electrifying its road car range.

It heads for the exit having become the only manufacturer besides Mercedes to power a driver to the world championship in F1’s hybrid era. Renault – Honda’s predecessor as Red Bull’s supplier – has so far conspicuously failed to live up to its title-winning achievements in the V8 era, as is also true of Ferrari.

When Honda announced it was entering F1 for a fourth time, reuniting with McLaren for the 2015 season, there were great hopes. A legendary partnership was reunited and benefitted from two world champion drivers as Jenson Button was joined by Fernando Alonso, the latter making a surprise comeback to the team he had a bitter split from in 2007.

The crushing success Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes enjoyed as they romped to the 2014 titles might have put some sense of foreboding on that. But almost no one predicted quite how disastrously Honda and McLaren’s reunion would go.

Testing seemed cursed. Alonso crashed heavily in circumstances that initially looked mysterious, which he eventually explained as a steering issue. As a consequence, Kevin Magnussen stood in for him at the first round of the 2015 season.

McLaren managed just 380 laps over 12 days of pre-season testing, while reigning champions Mercedes put in 1,340. It was a bad start and from there things barely improved.

Early testing was fraught with problems
Reliability on the Honda unit proved horrible. McLaren slumped to ninth in the constructors championship with 27 points at the end of the season. The driver described some races as a “scary” experience.

Alonso, in particular, was scathing in radio remarks during Honda’s home race at Suzuka about his “GP2 engine,” and later criticised F1 bosses for airing his comment during the race. It would haunt the rest of McLaren-Honda’s time together.

Any hope that things would radically improve into 2016 faded quickly, although it was a better year overall for the partnership. They scored 76 points and rose to sixth in the championship, despite an increasingly checked-out Button heading for retirement and another spectacular accident for Alonso forcing him to cede his car to Stoffel Vandoorne for the Bahrain round.

But it was telling that in 2017 Alonso again failed to complete a full F1 season in his Honda-powered car, though this time it was because he chose to race somewhere else. He skipped Monaco (Button returned from retirement as a one-off substitute) to race at the Indianapolis 500 which he led convincingly, then dropped out with – what else? – a Honda engine failure.

Gasly had useful links to Honda from his time in Japan
By 2017 the situation between McLaren and Honda looked impossible to salvage. Another extensive overhaul of the power unit design had reversed their meagre 2016 gains relative to the competition, and the team sunk back to ninth. They announced their divorce before the end of the season.

Earlier in the year Honda had announced a second team – Sauber – would use their engines in 2018. But within three months Frederic Vasseur replaced Monisha Kaltenborn as the team’s principal, and swiftly killed the deal.

Shortly after the announcement of McLaren’s termination came the news Toro Rosso would take up the chance to run the Japanese motors. Red Bull Junior Team driver Pierre Gasly, who nearly won the Japanese Super Formula title, was swapped in to replace Carlos Sainz Jnr, who was then shuffled over to placate Renault losing the power unit contract with the Faenza squad.

At the time, Toro Rosso had been on a run of fairly poor luck with its power unit supply. Having resorted to the 2015 Ferrari power unit in 2016, then been added back to Red Bull’s main Renault deal in 2017, the junior outfit was in no position to do more than take what it got. However in its fourth year Honda’s engine programme finally started to bear fruit.

A home win for Red Bull proved the strength of the partnership
This may not have seemed the case on the surface: McLaren-Renault out-scored Toro Rosso-Honda by 62 points to 33 in 2018. But Red Bull saw what their junior squad could achieve with an engine tailored to their car instead of a customer Renault, and made the bold call to join them in using a power unit which hadn’t yielded a single podium in four years.

That changed quickly. Max Verstappen took third place in the 2019 season-opener in Australia. Better things soon followed. The first victory of Honda’s return came at Red Bull’s home race, Verstappen first across the finish line in Austria. Although Mercedes remained dominant and Ferrari took second-place honours by almost 100 points from Red Bull, with Honda they scored 417 points to McLaren’s 145, including three victories.

Red Bull and Toro Rosso duly extended their deals to use Honda power units, but only by a single season. The reason emerged the following year.

In 2020 Honda became the first hybrid era manufacturer to power two separate teams to wins with Pierre Gasly’s Monza victory, as well as two more with Red Bull. But it wasn’t enough for the top bosses at Honda to justify the expense of an F1 project. In October Honda announced it would leave at the end of 2021.

It promised at the time to put a full focus on its final season. It delivered on that claim, to the extent that Verstappen and Red Bull remained contenders in both championship fights until the final round.

Verstappen snatched the title on the final lap in Abu Dhabi
Significant performance gains had been found thanks in part to Honda’s jet engine division. Their reliability was also much improved: In Honda’s final year Red Bull and AlphaTauri only took penalties for crash damage, rather than technical failures while rival, Mercedes-powered cars struggled with performance degradation on their internal combustion engines. Verstappen and team mate Sergio Perez took 11 victories and a further 12 podiums, with one more top-three finish for Gasly.

And, in extraordinary circumstances, a title which was out of their grasp for almost every lap of the race finally fell to Verstappen, Red Bull and Honda on the last lap.

After the pain of their first years back in the sport, and the pressure of knowing they had one last chance to win a title before leaving, Honda’s first championship triumph for 30 years was an emotional moment.

“All the emotion came out from everyone,” said Verstappen. “It’s a real story of ‘never give up’ and ‘keep pushing’ because it was, of course, a very difficult situation for them back in the day.”

Red Bull gave Honda the self-belief they needed to make a success of their F1 project, said Verstappen. “Everyone in the team told them we can do this together. You just have to believe and that’s what they did.

“Luckily, of course, there was a lot of investment involved, but that’s normal in Formula 1, you need to do that. And to of course then win the championship all together, also in their final race of being fully part of the team, was insane.

“Everything came out in the emotions.”

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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69 comments on “Honda’s “never give up” path from embarrassment to champions in fourth F1 stint”

  1. Red Bull gave Honda the self-belief they needed to make a success of their F1 project, said Verstappen.

    Nice article, though it’s only through this sentence that McLaren’s part in not making the Honda-partnership work is (partially) highlighted.

    As much as Red Bull isn’t good at creating a safe environment for their second drivers to grow in, they definitely managed to do so for Honda.

    1. Or just maybe by now Honda was too embarrassed to accept defeat and finally put the resources into it that McLaren had expected them to do from the outset Ruben.

      1. Lets not get into that again. The 2018 season clearly showed that Honda was not as bad as McLaren made them out to be in the prior seasons.

        Yes, Honda needed improvement, which they got via an open Toro Rosso team.

        But so did McLaren, which they got via letting Boullier, Alonso go.
        But the difference is that after Honda ‘s improvement, they are battling for the championship. After Mclarens’ improvement, they are still 4th

        1. Mclaren’s management of the entire situation was appalling. It didn’t help that there was a management upheaval going on Mclaren, but their inability to manage basic interfaces with Honda, as highlighted in the Amazon Doco Grand Prix Driver, pretty much summed it all up.

          It never looked like expectations were clearly defined upfront. Considering there was little or no stability on Mclaren’s end, its hardly a surprise.

          1. I don’t think it has ever been reported which side made the error that led to the engine not fitting, for all we know it could have been Honda.

        2. Exactly this. McLaren claimed they had a winning car except for the engine….until they swapped engines and everyone saw.

      2. That is a possiblity, although McLaren was usually eager to put their slump in performance all down to Honda only to find that, once Honda was replaced with Renault, their car design wasn’t really on PAR either.
        I’m sure it takes two to tango and a better engine provides better data for improving the car, but if the communication to the outside world is all “Honda didn’t do its homework” it didn’t give Honda much confidence in the relationship. Red Bull managed to provide that confidence from the outset.

        1. McLaren definitely had issues in 2018 but that would be under playing the cumulative impact of 3 years of very little race and practice running due to the unreliability of those early Honda engines. How could McLaren know what what development and upgrades worked when the car was never on track? That also doesn’t consider the impact on moral on the team themselves. I can’t remember which race but there was a 2018 interview with one of the race engineers at McLaren who said for the previous 3 years the car they’d spent all weekend building and prepping hadn’t even started the race due to the various unreliability issues they’d had.

          In the end it was the best thing for both parties to dissolve the partnership. In hindsight McLaren made a rod for their own back by not allowing Honda to supply any other team in those early years as they just had no ability to collect any real comparative data but Honda massively lucked out in 2018 when they went to a team that had recent experience of both Ferrari and Renault engines and had a known working race car that they could finally test in.

    2. As much as Red Bull isn’t good at creating a safe environment for their second drivers to grow in, they definitely managed to do so for Honda.

      Frankly, I think that this is highly exaggerated. At this level, no driver has a safe environment in the sense that their seat is safe if they underperform. Mercedes doesn’t seem better, with the animosity between Lewis & Rosberg, how Toto went after Russell, or how defeated Bottas often looked.

      I think that the main difference is that the Red Bull is very hard to drive fast.

      1. Noframingplease (@)
        30th December 2021, 17:00

        I agree, but it’s nice that of all the teams from Great Britain the media framed one as the black sheep. Seeing how Toto is orchestrating F1 media it doesn’t surprise me that RB, Horner, marko and max can’t do good

      2. Jose Lopes da Silva
        31st December 2021, 9:25

        Ever since this crazy folly of the “Red Bull career-killing” narrative started (including Toro Rosso, of course), I’ve been waiting for someone to tell when did the top echelon of the world motorsport created “safe spaces for people to grow”. Perhaps that’s why Jan Magnussen failed, because Stewart Grand Prix was not a safe space? Minardi for sure wasn’t, sacking talented people like Marques in order not to go bankrupt. Is it supposed to exist safe spaces after climbing the ladder to the very top?
        The safe spaces are those of Stroll and Latifi, especially Stroll.

  2. Nice tribute article to Honda.

    But I don’t believe there was a performance degradation on Mercedes. Red Bull even had to retired Perez to make sure no engine failure that could disrupt Verstappen chances to passed Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.

    I think Honda had incredible job to be at par with Mercedes, but as a team, Mercedes had a better strategy on letting themselves get 5 grid penalty but having two overclock engines at the last few races. Something Red Bull need to consider in the next session (if there’s no new rule on this).

    1. Still no sure if the “strategy” Mercedes used really is the way f1 should accept.
      Sacrificing engines to overclock them with minimal penalty is not what they tried to achieve by a pool of only three engines during the season.
      But as far as reliability goes, Honda obviously was the best engine by far.

    2. @ruliemaulana
      All the Mercedes powered cars were forced to take grid penalties at some point of the season for PU change. Some drivers even multiple times. Mercedes themselves admitted spotting an issue with “unusual noises” within their ICE. Also, Helmut Marko stated before the Mexican GP that according to RBR’s analysis Hamilton is going to take a penalty in the remaining races for a fresh engine.

      The issue is indeed real rather than a choice for Mercedes to unlock more performance. The question is why the issue appeared only this year after 7 seasons of having the best power/reliability combo. I think the engine modes ban mid 2020 has was the main reason behind Mercedes reliability issues.

      In the past Mercedes only turned up their engine when needed in Q2/Q3 and in crucial stages of races. Hamilton usually used to create a gap and then nurse his PU throughout the race. Even when he is behind and fighting for position, when the target is achieved and a safety gap is created, he just controls the pace. Now Mercedes are running their engines as high as possible for the entire qualy and race sessions which is causing more wear than usual that’s why the performance between a fresh and an old engine is quite important.

      1. @tifoso1989

        That makes a lot of sense. Also, I think that Mercedes simply pushed their engine more due to the big challenge by Red Bull. Mercedes famously turned down their engines early in the hybrid era because they feared regulation changes if the extend of their advantage was known. They cannot afford to do so nowadays.

      2. You made a good point about the engine modes ban mid 2020 @tifoso1989

  3. Yeah they’re not champions though, are they?

    That paper crown the corrupt FIA put on Verstappen doesn’t make him a champion. The only thing it makes is a mockery of the sport.

    1. No matter how much you whine or argue “well, they aren’t for me”: they are (the engine suppliers to) the 2021 World Drivers Champion, ever since Mercedes dropped their appeal to the stewards’ decision.

      You can definitely argue that Michael Masi made half-hearted decisions that only partially followed some rules and then partially another, which made it a gamble for all teams and some had less to lose. But the fact that, despite Hamilton’s dominance in that race, Red Bull was still close enough for Hamilton not to have a free pit stop before the field was bunched up is all down to Red Bull’s, Verstappen’s and Perez’ determination and Honda’s resilience over the years. So in that way the eventual outcome doesn’t even matter that much for this article.

      Hamilton saw a provisional title slip away in one of the most cruelest ways possible, Verstappen and Red Bull played the cards they were dealt with perfectly and they gave themselves a seat at the table – you can’t blame them for that. In other words: stop dragging the oh-he’s-not-the-real-champion argument into every discussion before it’s a bigger mockery of the sport than Masi’s decision itself.

      1. Red Bull influenced Masi’s decision, so they arguably did something wrong. They are not the real champions and every article that states that they are deserves someone acknowledging the this. Every article.

    2. They didn’t win the Constructors’ Title, and their driver only “won” the WDC thanks to an incredible and obviously irregular set of decisions by Michael Masi.
      Honda did nothing wrong, of course, but to call them “champions” is to stretch it.
      Champions of what, exactly? Getting into Masi’s ear?

      1. @NeverElectric

        Well, Lewis got to take a shortcut for half the race at the season opener, so it’s hardly the case that Masi only screwed over Lewis…

      2. They didn’t win the Constructors’ Title, and their driver only “won” the WDC thanks to an incredible and obviously irregular set of decisions by Michael Masi.
        Honda did nothing wrong, of course, but to call them “champions” is to stretch it.
        Champions of what, exactly? Getting into Masi’s ear?

        Speaking of irregular: in one message you both say that Honda did nothing wrong but that you also can’t call them champions. If they didn’t do anything wrong, why wouldn’t you call them champions?
        It’s not easy to make a straight forward call, definitely if it’s under high pressure, and I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from Abu Dhabi. Fact of the matter is: Verstappen won that race following the rules (which were extra scrutinized by the protest afterwards) and with that the championship, which was extremely sour for Hamilton, but the gaps in FIA’s rulebook are no reason to keep dragging Verstappen’s championship through the mud.

        1. keep on being happy with the paper title gifted to your verstappen. this was not won in competition, but gifted from the race director. face it, that you dont have the one and only opinion.

        2. It is if you feel Red Bull contributed to the way the rules were expressed.
          You just will have to live with the non-acceptance by some.

          What we saw this day was a slap in the face that should not be forgotten. And writing articles hoping that bring back the status quo risk the wrath of descending opinion.

          The championship was a gift. It was not earned.

          1. Silverstone was a gift too. Definitely not earned.

      3. Lunch Room discussions ….

      4. Ruben Well said couple of posts.

        NeverElectric The Championships are decided over a season of races and circumstances, and the results they revealed. Honda were awesome over the season and are no small part of why Max lead more laps than the rest of the grid combined, LH included. Honda, Max, and RBR took it to the dynasty bigtime this season, well before the final race. We all saw the costly bad luck that Max had and which simultaneously benefitted LH directly, Baku aside. Hardly a ‘paper’ Championship for those who have the actually trophy.

      5. Noframingplease (@)
        30th December 2021, 17:09

        So, you mean the rest of the season, where – Max lead more laps than any other driver – Toto was framing RB and Max constantly about the ‘surprising ‘ performance of that honda engine. Lobbying for new rules for pitstops etc etc. isn’t really important cuze the last decision Masi made didn’t suit many Lewis fans. The rest of his decisions (giving lewis a lap back, crashing your opponent with 51 G and get a 10 sec penalty and still win) you forgot probably

  4. To be fair to Ferrari, they did have a chance and the equipment to win 2018 championships, had they got a better 2nd driver and Seb didn’t nose dive in form.

    In the end, in the 7 year hybrid era so far, 3 out of 4 manufacturers have had a fair chance to win championships (drivers or constructors) with only Renault never in the picture.

    It speaks volumes of Renault’s struggles that in 2017 they took Sainz from Toro Rosso in order to hobble the junior Renault team and beat them. 4 years later, they still just managed to beat the same Toro Rosso team (now junior Honda team) only because the Toro Rosso was hobbled via a rookie 2nd driver.
    For a factory team, they really need to improve significantly.

    1. To be fair to Ferrari, they did have a chance and the equipment to win 2018 championships, had they got a better 2nd driver and Seb didn’t nose dive in form.

      I’m still puzzled when people bring up 2018 as a ‘close’ season, though I think you word it correctly: they had the chance and equipment. I don’t think they had the organisation and the mentality to support a title bid.
      Until the German GP Vettel won 4 out of 10 races, with two more podiums (2nd in Monaco, 3rd in Austria), to Hamilton’s three wins and four podiums. Vettel leading the championship had more to do with Mercedes’ strategy calls and a dip in reliability in Austria than with Ferrari being the team to beat.
      As this year showed: you really have to be on top of your game to beat Mercedes and Ferrari never were. Mercedes just wasn’t completely on top of theirs in the first half of the season (yet they still were close).

      1. Vettel leading the championship had more to do with Mercedes’ strategy calls and a dip in reliability in Austria than with Ferrari being the team to beat.

        Not just that, post-Germany, Kimi managed to win in US GP and almost win Monza as well. It shows that the speed was there in the car till late in the season.
        Hence, 2018 is a season where I genuinely feel that Vettel and Ferrari could have won.

        One of my current off-season musings is what would have happened had Ferrari replaced Kimi with Leclerc in the summer break of 2018. I feel that Leclerc would have done better than Kimi, bagging more points. While Vettel would have been threatened by Leclerc, they wouldn’t be on an equal footing as it wasn’t the start of the season and Leclerc would have had to play a support role to Vettel, which Leclerc, in his first F1 season would not have minded. And Vettel, when given the support, would have made lesser mistakes. Ultimately, Ferrari could have won both championships. Of course, Leclerc’s speed and him potentially giving up multiple wins to Vettel would have meant that the Vettel-Ferrari partnership would have finished at the end of the season and Vettel taking away the no.1 to probably Red Bull who would be looking for Ricciardo’s replacement for 2019. And on the back of a stellar campaign of thrashing Sainz at Renault in 2018, Hulk would have jumped ship as Ferrari would have come asking for him.

        Alas, such what-ifs will remain only theories we die-hard fans keep discussing in comment sections :)

        As this year showed: you really have to be on top of your game to beat Mercedes and Ferrari never were. Mercedes just wasn’t completely on top of theirs in the first half of the season (yet they still were close).

        +1 to that.

        1. It shows that the speed was there in the car till late in the season.

          Yet Mercedes ran away with it and sealed the deal with two races to go…

          And Vettel, when given the support, would have made lesser mistakes.

          ..but there’s quite a bit of this ^^ that led to Merc’s dominance being exaggerated.

          So I guess we agree Ferrari might’ve had the all the tools, unfortunately they also had tools making the management and strategy calls (…). To me they never really seemed to be a threat, but maybe that’s just my memory :)

        2. Ferrari had the opportunity to win, true, but only if they had a perfect season. I remember calculating the “what if” points and Ferrari just narrowly could have emerged on top. Mercedes played the conservative game and were still comfortable in the front. In hindsight I don’t see any possibility for Ferrari to win.

          Mercedes played the long game, even in 2021 IMO. There were multiple races where they and Lewis could have gone more aggressive, but they were too conservative and confident. In the end they really pushed it and it would have been just enough if not for the safety car and what followed.

          1. Maybe for 2017; in 2018 ferrari was up there all season, they just had a slump after vettel’s repeated mistakes where they were off the pace for 3 races or so, then they went back to normal after reverting to an older component, that slump wouldn’t have happened if vettel didn’t force them to take risks and go on a wrong development path with his silly mistakes, not to mention the points his mistakes threw away: 32 points with his germany mistake, probably 35 in monza since hamilton could’ve been 3rd if vettel had kept the car straight, just 2 big examples.

          2. @esploratore1 – so you have 35 points, but you need like 50 or 60 more. Two and a half GPs worth of points. Even if Vettel was in his prime, which was not the case, this is massive difference.

            BTW blaming Vettel for wrong development path is very long shot, don’t you think? It was the Ferrari trademark after all to make to make the car worst during the season.

    2. Both Seb and Ferrari lost 2018.

  5. Except Honda have given up, and left.

    This may be in name only (clue:where do red bull import their engines from) but doesn’t exactly scream “we’ll stay the path no matter the cost”

    1. @falken Honda commits to F1 in the most financially nonsensical way (all the costs of engine development with no return other than marketing, which was purely bad marketing for 3 of their 6 years) and then quits because they need to ‘refocus their resources’ i.e it doesn’t make financial sense to stay on the sport in their current position. Go figure.

      1. What surprises me most about the “refocus their resources” you mention: from what I understood (correct me if I’m wrong) quite some key personnel will move from Honda Racing to Red Bull Power trains. That to me sounds more like a knowledge drain and running away resources, rather than refocus. I’m sure people who know stuff about high tech fuel burning engines can be put to good use in electric powertrain development..

        1. I think they will only be on the RB Powertrains division on a loan basis for the transition (so like, just over the next season), but then again, RaceFans reported on another article that they’ve backtracked on the whole plan and the engines will be manufactured in Japan and the RB Powertrains will just do maintenance and rebuild (IIRC the initial plan was for this to be the case just for 2022 and then Red Bull powertrain to take over manufacturing as well starting 2023). So i don’t know what to believe right now. I’m just salty at Honda leaving just as they were getting good and trying to bullshit us with PR speak as to why exactly they are leaving.

    2. It’s quite interesting that Honda didn’t go all in from the beginning, perhaps to avoid the issues Toyota ran in when they had their own F1 project, however Honda are seasoned players who are not new to the F1 challenge. Also interesting how RedBull/Honda partnership played out. The bulls were really willing to partner as opposite to McLaren who surely saw them as engine suppliers. This season has really been fascinating and not only because of the battle of the wills Hamilton vs Verstappen but also (or mainly from my point of view) Mercedes vs Honda. Of course Honda is as mighty as Mercedes is in the big picture but in the F1 context I’d say they were more of the underdog. It’s not an easy task to take on a heavy weight champion and challenge them to the point they have to use overclocked engines to beat the opposition. I’m not sure Mercedes are satisfied thy beat the challenger, particularly by the way they did it. Another thing I’m sure of is this is not the last time we will see Honda back in F1.

  6. “never give up”? They had given up three times and now for a fourth. They still have not got the constructors championship this year so in that sense it is another failure as they leave F1 for the fourth time.

    The Hokey Cokey manufacturer. Who would trust that if they return they will not leave the team they work with in the lurch as they have RedBull.

  7. I do feel happy for the people working for Honda (maybe not the in-out attitude of the bosses, but the actual people making the PUs). They were the butt of the joke for 3 seasons with McLaren, but less than 5 years later leave the sport with a championship. Good on them

  8. Honda’s Championship* LOL

    I mean it’s enough that the entire media industry wants to sweep Abu Dhabi under the rug an pretend that a championship was “won”. But even if we’re to believe the manipulation, Mercedes, yes, Mercedes AMG Petronas won the CONSTRUCTOR’S Championship. Or is Masi trying to change that result as well?

    1. I mean, good enough car their driver narrowly won the championship, not a bad thing, benetton 1994 had the same even if williams won the constructor’s (and had the best car, like mercedes this year), for a car that won nothing most years it participated in it’s a special result.

    2. Yeah did you see the unbridled joy from Lewis after winning the constructors? How about all you Lewis fans wanting to sweep the Silverstone/Hungary Mercedes mugging under the rug as if it didn’t have a bearing on this championship?

  9. I must be missing something

    Honda, much as I would have liked it, did not ‘win’ anything!

    A complete snafu gave the losing guy the championship and Mercedes still won the actual thing that counts for Manufacturers?

    If this had played out fairly, they would have lost.

    Personally, they made a good engine by doing what the Japanese engineers do best. Copy all the good bits of others and improve the manufacture of them. I worked for Honda, before the sky falls in.

    When they step outside of that you get Alonsos GP2 engine or the RC500 but they learn something every time.

    It’s how Honda train the engineers of the future of the company.

    It’s also why they keep walking away…

    1. They are champions suggest plural people but as Max is the only one with a title that makes it singular.

      i.e there is no “they” in WDC.

      The thing is Honda developed the technology for lean burn engines back in the 70s and forgot to use it hence why their early engines kept on cooking themselves.

    2. Actually, when the rules were followed correctly throughout the whole season Verstappen would have already won the championship before the start of the Abu Dabi GP. Remember Silverstone. A driver who is predominantly to blaim for causing a severe crash by which his main rival is out of the race and then is allowed to repair his car under red flag conditions that he has caused himself is of course completely ridiculous. To make it even worse that driver is then handed a penalty that has no relation to the severity of the incident caused. Mercedes should not have been allowed to repair Hamilton’s car and he should be handed a 10 sec. stop-and-go penalty. Each resulting in Hamilton scoring 0 points for that race.

      1. No Supermax, that is so not right!!!

        What you’ve put there as your conclusions is what you feel the rules should be, not what the rules are. Under the rules as they currently are, you are allowed to repair your car under red flag conditions. Whether you should be allowed to or not is a different question, what matters is you currently are. Thus, Mercedes followed the rules by repairing the car. Additionally, the (official) line of the FIA is that penalties should not be awarded based on the consequences, only on the incident itself. The offence itself was judged to be causing a collision, and that brought around a 10 second time penalty, which has pretty much become the standard for causing a collision. However, there are no firm rules governing which penalty has to be handed out for each incident, so the rules couldn’t have been broken. What I believe your saying is that the rules should be different to what they are, not that the rules as they are were not followed.

      2. In all other forms of Motorsport its usual to get a DSQ for brake checking another car that results in a crash, but as we saw in the Saudi Grand Prix its less motorsport, more a ‘Show involving race cars’

        1. We went car racing!

        2. A black flag for Silverstone should have been used. Not an easy 10s penalty.

      3. Max max max, supermax! You’re right and great name choice! I just won’t ever get over silverstone and will never agree with people complaining about abu dhabi: abu dhabi was just 1\3 of the luck swing needed to make this a fair season, hamilton still gained like 30 points through luck overall.

    3. Yeah Honda won the drivers championship. Its based on 22 races. Remember what happened at Silverstone, Hungary, Imola, Baku? Made this championship much closer than it should’ve been. Do what Japanese engineers do best? Copy? Can you really copy the split turbo concept?

  10. There is a critical moment last year. After Ferrari had to bodge a legal PU, Honda was very optimistic for the incoming season, due the performance of their PU, which they labeled competitive against Mercedes and also I would add because the fia had done something to enforce the pu rules.
    Unfortunately as the season begun Honda realised Mercedes still had a big advantage, for the very first time the all so Japanese company pointed the finger at a rival, Mercedes, they expressed doubts towards Mercedes advantage, and a couple months after that they announced they were leaving f1.
    In my view Honda left largely because they felt mercedes advantage was not possible under the current power unit regulation, much like merc realised Ferrari’s performance was not possible. The fact that Honda pointed the finger at merc and the whole story was swept under the rug mustn’t have helped.
    I can’t see Honda returning to f1 until the new fia proves they can rule the sport.

    1. Yup.

      They felt the deck is stacked in favour of Mercedes…

      So any kind of Championship came about from RedBull and one driver wonder Max.

      This was the cherry on top for Honda, while persisting in this Mercedes series was bad longterm.

  11. When I first got into F1 I always followed the Honda-powered teams, and have always been fond of the Red Bull teams so the union of my favourite teams with my favourite engine really was something I loved. After leaving in 2008 and seeing the car they designed take the 2009 title, it was something amazing to think they’d be able to leave F1 this time as a champion.

    I don’t think anyone would have expected the first non-Mercedes title to be taken would fall to a Honda powered car from where McLaren were with the PU’s and knowing that they leave F1 having gone from the very bottom to the very top is an amazing achievement. F1 will be lesser without Honda, but at least some part of them remains with Red Bull.

  12. Why exactly are we praising Honda? They couldn’t make a PU worth a damn for numerous seasons, finally get things straight, and then decide to quit….again.

    They quit, and quit, quit some more, and finally have quit again. Hopefully for the last time, because frankly they lack the long term desire to be in the sport. They didn’t win the constructors championship, and they barely won the drivers championship with the bizzare circumstances at Spa and Yas Marina.

    They flat out embarrassed themselves with their futile effort upon their 4 stint, and their embarrassment lives on in the Brackley team that has won every constructors championship since 2014. The same team they hung out to dry and left for dead late in the off season. The same team that took their funded chassis to a double championship in 2009 after Honda pulled the plug.

    Good bye and good riddance.

    1. Geez, did you have a bad experience driving Honda cars? We’re praising Honda because they had every reason to quit after their relationship with McLaren failed miserably, but they didn’t. Their company policy is, apparantly, only to quit if there’s no good reason to do so. So they pursued a bad reason to quit until they found one, which they have. So now they quit. As they do. I’ve seen entire articles being written for less on this website, so give Honda and this article some slack.

      1. Good example of how they didn’t quit, after McLaren would have been an easy call;

  13. Calling Honda “champions” is stretching it a bit.
    Max won the WDC. In a RBR. Powered by Honda. That much is true. Great for them.
    But the WCC was won by Merc (not by much). Honda was not even a contender, even though a WCC win for RBR could have been reckoned a Honda victory.

  14. In their current stint, Honda gets praise to bringing strong competition to Mercedes.
    I would imagine that the Honda represents, being honorable people, would not take solace in such a gifted victory. It isn’t something I imaginge them being proud of. I bet if they were samurais they would still fall on their swords.

    But it was very good to see that engine compete at that level throughout the season (and for its potential going forward).

  15. The tears in these comments about Honda winning the WDC is worth the read in itself

  16. Michael E Ingraham
    31st December 2021, 14:36

    Honda definitely turned things around and gave MB a strong run for their money. But, as Honda is a manufacturer, THEY are not champions. Max received a championship. RBR & Honda did not.

  17. Not sure where this “never give up” narrative has come from. They have done exactly that, as of the end of this season. They chose to give up well before it was clear RB would be a strong title contender this year.

    Sure, we can commend them for pushing until the end of this spell in F1, but to frame it as a never give up attitude is bizarre.

  18. @simon999 I agree its more revisionist PR friendly propaganda.

    RB performance wasn’t anything to do with the Honda PU but their aggressive high rake aero design philosophy. Also being a “one car” team helps as it is clear that wunderking max was the chosen one with the best parts and engineers and perez was the clear number 2 which makes building a PU easier. one example is that they deliberately underfunded perez car in abu dhabi so he would be lighter faster car so he could ‘block’ Lewis, this is why rb boxed him at the end because he couldn’t finish the race due to no fuel and retiring early avoids scrutineering from officials who would discover an illegal underweight car. RB was also more aggressive on tactics plus favoritism from FIA/liberty (inventing new rules to screw Lewis in abu dhabi restart. No harsh penalty for deliberately brake checking an opponent) who clearly wanted a new WDC.

    Where is the credit for Ron Dennis who on his one persuaded Honda back into F1 ?? Unlike what the editor said it was not an embarrassment but they entered F1 too early with an undeveloped PU and eventually got him forced out of the team and McLaren group. In retrospect Honda needed 18 more months to develop the complicated turbo hybrid but Ron took an gamble on them that sadly did not pay off.

    RB basically benefited from McLaren ‘beta testing’ Honda PUs for them so
    it has nothing to do with the hyperbole of “from embarrassment ” to “not giving up”..

    1. Last paragraph summarizes it perfectly.
      They couldn’t make an engine work for three years (4 since they were given an extra year of testing befor entering). It wasn’t a matter of not giving up it was just a matter of time after all those failures led to some success, there was nothing else left to get wrong.

      1. Not true. Others have played for longer and managed to get it wrong. Only Mercedes got it right. Apart from Honda.

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