50 Up With Red Bull Racing

When the lights go out at Spa-Francorchamps the 50th race of the Red Bull Racing Honda era will be underway.

50 Up With Red Bull Racing

When the lights go out at Spa-Francorchamps the 50th race of the Red Bull Racing Honda era will be underway.

And in those 50 races there have been 11 victories - a success rate of 22% - and 21 further podiums. It feels like a long time ago now that the announcement was made that Red Bull and Honda would be joining forces from 2019 onwards, but it’s still a very special memory for our F1 Managing Director Masashi Yamamoto.

“It was so good when we confirmed the partnership with Red Bull because obviously it was the start of our story,” Yamamoto-san says. “And since then that story includes securing our first win of the hybrid era and now being in the championship fight. So it was a really good moment.”

Despite the really impressive figures, only twice have we seen two Red Bulls on the podium at the same time. In Bahrain last year, Max was second with Alex in third, while a Max victory in France this year was backed up by Sergio’s excellent drive to third place, too.

But that means there has been a Red Bull driver standing on at least one of the podium steps at 30 races out of the 50 we have competed in together so far. And the very first occasion that happened is a moment that really shines brightly for Yamamoto-san.

“I think now that the race in Australia was one of the biggest joys I have had since I started the F1 project. Of course the first win in Austria was big, but Melbourne was just as big if not bigger to be honest. It was actually the first time I cried in Formula 1!

“You might think that would mean I was crying in Austria when we took our first win too, but I wasn’t. One of the targets of our partnership - at least the first step - was to win with Red Bull. So it wasn’t like a great pleasure like crying, it was more like ‘Yes we did it’, and I had the kind of feeling that 'Now we have finally started’.”

And Yamamoto-san doesn’t even rate the first win of the hybrid era in Austria as the standout one for him for that very reason. That was just the starting point, but the list has expanded - this year in particular - and instead it is another iconic circuit and a different manner of victory that sticks in his mind.

“Of course the first win was special and I had a good feeling from it, but this year’s second race at Imola was also special. At that point I had a different feeling that it confirmed we had entered the next stage and that we could fight for a championship. So that gave me confidence that we were in the battle for the title.

“Another one of the reasons why Imola in particular was so special was the start. Max and Checo went side-by-side on the run to Turn 1 and there Max went into the lead. Then after that he took victory because of that start, which was really impressive.

“But I should also mention Monaco, which was a race that was my personal strong wish to win. Maybe it is the same for everyone else, and it was Max’s first win in Monaco, so that was special too. Each one of those wins has strengthened our confidence and relationship together. So we have become stronger and stronger as a team after each win.”

There have been lows too, with the 48th and 49th races particularly bitter pills to swallow. But a team learns in the face of adversity and the way Red Bull and Honda have responded to setbacks together over the past two and a half seasons has been a source of pride for Yamamoto-san, because of how it has brought the partnership closer.

“Some people might think that the crashes at the start of Hungary a few weeks ago stand out as a memory. But what comes to mind immediately is last year’s race at the Hungaroring. Max crashed on the reconnaissance lap and the team fixed it so quickly…

“Red Bull and Honda members were working together, and I felt a very strong sense of teamwork and a highly-skilled group of people. So I thought then that we were having a really good partnership together with Red Bull and that also strengthened it.”

And from that position of strength, with Max and Red Bull only losing their championship leads in unfortunate circumstances over the past two races, the foundation is set that gives us a chance of challenging on both fronts.

“There is only one goal: to win the championship. Well, two goals, because it’s to win both championships! We want to win the drivers’ and constructors’.

“I’d say I’m 51% confident! A little bit more than half and half.”

But whether that confidence proves to be well-placed and the story ends with titles or not, it will come to a conclusion at the end of this season. Anticipating this final chapter with Red Bull, Yamamoto-san admits a bittersweet spell is ahead, as his fierce determination to win takes over.

“There’s various feelings. Of course we are now a winning team and the fact that we have to end the project at this time is sort of a shame and disappointing. And also we are such a good team and a strong team now, we will really miss them and the fact we can’t work as partners next year.

“That also means we definitely won’t be able to win consecutive championships, which is a big shame if we succeed this year.”

Either way, it has been a heck of a ride so far. And the remaining races in 2021 only promise more of the same for Red Bull and Honda.

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