Formula 1

So It All Comes Down To This.

After seven years out of the sport, we returned to Formula 1 in partnership with McLaren to tackle the new power unit regulations.

So It All Comes Down To This.

It was a time that saw huge interest as we rekindled the iconic partnership and began a steep learning curve one year after the other manufacturers had first raced their PUs.

It was a challenging season but one where the potential of the partnership could be seen in the right circumstances, with Fernando taking an excellent fifth in Hungary ahead of Jenson in ninth, and then the British driver adding another top six with a strong performance in the United States.

With a year’s experience to learn from, 2016 was a clear step forward for McLaren-Honda. RA616H was a more competitive power unit, allowing both Fernando and Jenson to fight for points with regularity.

We exceeded the previous season’s points’ total before the halfway stage of the second campaign, courtesy of double-points finishes in both Russia and Monaco. Regular top-eight results followed, with two more races where both cars scored - in Malaysia and Austin - ensuring we finished sixth in the constructors’ championship with nearly three times the points of the previous season.

After a challenging 2017, it was time for a fresh start in 2018 as we joined forces with Scuderia Toro Rosso and began a new era. The partnership made Toro Rosso a works team for the first time and clicked almost instantly, with Pierre securing a superb fourth-place result in only the second race of the season in Bahrain.

It was just the sort of performance to give both sides confidence, and there were further strong results in Monaco and Hungary. A particularly sweet Saturday at Suzuka saw both Pierre and Brendon secure Q3 spots at our home race for the first time, and the year provided a solid foundation to work from.

When we started the season with Toro Rosso, there were no guarantees. It might have been a Red Bull-backed team but the senior outfit was going to watch how the partnership developed before making a decision on whether we would push forward together into 2019.

On 19 June 2018, it was confirmed that we would also supply Red Bull Racing for the next two seasons, taking on the challenge of working with two teams on the grid simultaneously for the first time since our return. Team principal Christian Horner said the news signaled “the start of an exciting new phase” for Red Bull, with the target of fighting for wins and championships together.

Expectations were immediately high after the encouraging steps forward made in 2018, as the latest power unit would be allied with a Red Bull car that had proven to be a race-winning chassis for a number of seasons. And we duly delivered amid those expectations.

At the very first race of the partnership in Melbourne, Max delivered a strong qualifying lap to secure fourth place on the grid. Despite dropping to fifth early on, he fought his way back past the two Ferraris and chased down Lewis Hamilton, finishing just 1.7 seconds behind the defending champion as he picked up our first podium since Silverstone in 2008.

Off to such a strong start, we of course wanted to continue that momentum and Max delivered another podium in Spain as he started the season with 12 consecutive top-five finishes. But it was the ninth of these that really stood out.

Max started Red Bull’s home race in Austria from the front row, but an issue at the start dropped him down to eighth place. Unperturbed, he fought his way into contention and after emerging from his final pit stop in fourth place he cleared Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas to run second, chasing down Charles Leclerc and forcing his way past to take a memorable victory with just three laps to go.

It was the first victory since Hungary 2006 for a Honda-powered car, a result made all the more special by delivering it at the Red Bull Ring.

A second race win soon followed in Germany, and once again Max secured it with the fastest lap to secure maximum points. But one thing was still missing: a pole position.

In Hungary, Max put it all together on a very different type of track compared to Austria and Hockenheim. Having been quickest in the first part of qualifying, Max pulled out a stunning final lap to pip the two Mercedes drivers and secure not only our first pole since returning to F1, but also the first of his career.

The race itself was another thrilling grand prix, with Max ending up on just the wrong side of a strategic battle in second place - his fifth trip to the podium of the season.

After a spell with Red Bull, Pierre was back with Toro Rosso in the second half of 2019 and delivered some excellent performances for the team, culminating in a special weekend at Interlagos.

In a chaotic race, Max duly converted pole position to take his third victory of the season, despite numerous interruptions and Safety Car periods. A late restart saw Max leading team-mate Alex and Pierre in third, so for a spell it was an all-Honda podium. Unfortunately Hamilton tapped Alex into a spin to remove him from contention, but Pierre drove superbly to hold off the Mercedes on a drag race to the line as the power unit showed itself to be more than a match for any challenger.

With Max’s victory and Pierre in second, it marked the first double-podium of the latest era, and a strong reward for the Toro Rosso team that had played such a key role in the partnership’s progress.

It’s fair to call 2020 a challenging year for everyone in the world - not just Formula 1 - after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and forced the season to be postponed for nearly four months. After an aborted attempt to race in Australia, the first race finally took place in July in Austria, and we proved to be the closest challengers to the dominant Mercedes team.

After failing to finish the first race when well-placed, Max then went on a run of five consecutive podiums, including a win at Silverstone. The run ended at Monza as Max again retired, but that race will be remembered for the other Honda-powered team as Pierre drove a sensational race to hold on and win after a red flag interruption helped him move into the lead.

It was one of three victories for us that year - the other two being scored by Max - as we ended the season on a high with pole and a win in Abu Dhabi. Setting us up for what would be an incredible 2021.

Ahead of what would be our last season as power unit supplier to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, we pulled out all of the stops to deliver the best possible PU as quickly as we could. Major developments and been put on hold until new regulations in 2022 but were then fast-tracked to try and end the era in the best possible way.

Tweaks to the aerodynamic regulations made for a busy pre-season getting to grips with the changes but both teams hit the ground running. Max secured pole at the first race in Bahrain and finished a close second, before winning in Imola and adding two further second-place finishes before a comfortable win in Monaco.

When Checo won in Azerbaijan after an unfortunate tyre failure for Max late on, it was the first double-podium of the season with Pierre in third, and a title challenge was well and truly on.

Part of an excellent run in the first half of the season saw us win five races in a row for the first time since 1988, and it built to a bit of a crescendo at the scene of our first win with Red Bull. When F1 returned to Austria, it was for the only double-header at the same track this season, and Max duly dominated the first event to win from pole.

But it was the second race that felt like a particularly special moment, as the sport welcomed a capacity crowd back for the first time since the pandemic. Roared on by a hugely passionate fanbase, Max was in a class of his own once again and secured the first grand slam of his career - taking pole, setting the fastest lap, the win and leading every lap.

One of the major disappointments of 2021 was the cancellation of the Japanese Grand Prix. The COVID-19 pandemic meant we wouldn’t get a chance to race in front of our home supporters at Suzuka, with Turkey being moved to the same date instead having joined the calendar late on.

In order to make the occasion, we ran a special Honda-themed livery on the RB16B throughout the weekend in Istanbul, with the white and red design a striking difference from the usual Red Bull colours. Ir proved a successful livery, too, with Max second and Sergio third to secure only their second double podium of the season.

Back in traditional colours, Red Bull and Max were inspired as they took victory in a race they had no right to win in Austin, and a week later backed it up with another dominant showing.

After setting the pace all weekend, it was a bit of a surprise to be beaten to the front row but Max made light of the situation as he slipstreamed up to the leaders off the line and braked latest around the outside to sweep in to the lead.

From there, he was never under threat and Max cruised home for his ninth win of the season, with Checo joining him for a hugely popular home podium.

After 59 races with Red Bull and 140 since our return to F1 in 2015, it has all bull to this moment where we go in search of both championships in our final race. It’s a tall order for Red Bull Racing but not impossible, needing to overturn a 28-point deficit to take the constructors’ crown.

The equation is much more simple for Max, who has to better Lewis Hamilton’s result to be world champion if Hamilton finishes in the top ten, and would win the title if Hamilton fails to core

Regardless of what happens this weekend, we can all be extremely proud of the hard work, commitment and determination shown over the past seven years that has brought us to this point. The Honda ethos of striving for technical excellence has really shone through, and from a technological point of view we’ll have made the same progress regardless of win or lose on Sunday.

But, of course, we really want to win, and to sign off on the perfect high.

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