Honda: Tough F1 return critical for building title fight form

Honda says the "tough" experience it first endured on its Formula 1 return in 2015 was critical for delivering the breakthrough needed to make it a title contender now.

Honda: Tough F1 return critical for building title fight form

The Japanese manufacturer is helping Red Bull in its fight with Mercedes for the world championship this year, ahead of its withdrawal from grand prix racing at the end of the campaign.

The current success is a world away from the struggles Honda faced when its first came back to F1 with McLaren, as it battled with a lack of performance and poor reliability.

Those difficulties prompted a split with McLaren as its focus shifted to a partnership with Red Bull's two teams.

Red Bull helped Honda deliver its first win of the hybrid era at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, and since then it has added to the tally as it hopes to make Max Verstappen world champion this season.

Reflecting on the progress that Honda has made over its recent F1 history, technical director Toyoharu Tanabe thinks that the value of the difficult first years back cannot be underestimated in helping it become the force it is today.

"A lack of experience gave us a very hard time, with retirements, engine blow ups, and we had many troubles on race weekends," explained Tanabe, speaking to selected media including Autosport.

"But we kept working very hard to achieve our desire – not only win the race, not only get the championship, but also improve the performance, and improve reliability. That was part of our important targets for engineers.

"Since 2015, and then '16, '17, '18, '19, '20, it was tough for the people, but we never give up. We keep pushing, but still, it was not easy. We are competing against a champion team."

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

Photo by: Erik Junius

While Honda's early struggles with McLaren prompted speculation that it could abandon its F1 plans early on, Tanabe says that it always knew that the knowledge gained from the difficult times would pay off in the end.

"For the people in the past it looks negative – they work very hard but without good results, with engine failures and no power. But now we spring back and they get more power, more reliability, more wins," he said.

"So that gave us a good experience, not only the engineers, but also logistics people and mechanics. It was a very good experience for their future.

"If you have a hard time, you can learn things from that and breakthrough technically. But also mentally, people are getting very strong through the rest of Honda. So it's sadness and happiness we have experienced through this project."

Tanabe also reckons that Honda's willingness to deal with clear weaknesses in the past was very important for allowing it to make gains against the benchmark Mercedes power unit.

Read Also:

And he says that its form against its German rival on the straights at Monza recently was proof of how little there is now separating the two engines in performance.

"In the past we analysed our weakness and strengths, but mostly our weaknesses," he said.

"We made up some targets of areas we need to improve to compete against the Mercedes. One of the areas was the energy [deployment].

"This year we put in a new PU and the new PU included the ICE, to improve our energy performance. The result was the PU works as expected and the gap between Honda and Mercedes has been getting closer in terms of PU performance – not only ICE performance but also energy management area.

"So we saw a good performance at Monza against Mercedes compared with previous years. That is one of the success areas for us this year with the new PU."

shares
comments

Related video

Albon explains why Williams was first choice for F1 comeback
Previous article

Albon explains why Williams was first choice for F1 comeback

Next article

Berger: Intense Hamilton/Verstappen fight what F1 needs

Berger: Intense Hamilton/Verstappen fight what F1 needs
Load comments
How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in the best-of-the-rest F1 2021 battle Plus

How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in the best-of-the-rest F1 2021 battle

Supremacy in the McLaren vs Ferrari fight over third place in the constructors’ championship has ebbed and flowed between the two teams so far in the 2021 Formula 1 season. But for several key reasons, right now it seems the advantage has swung decisively back to the Scuderia and McLaren knows it.

The 70s US superteam that tried and failed to crack F1 Plus

The 70s US superteam that tried and failed to crack F1

Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing was briefly one of the biggest names on the US motorsports scene, but its ambition outstripped its resources. STUART CODLING relates the story of a Formula 1 campaign cut off in its prime

Formula 1
Oct 26, 2021
The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory Plus

The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory

As the 2021 Formula 1 title battle winds towards its climax, the United States GP added another thrilling act in the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle. Although Hamilton aced the start, Verstappen and Red Bull took the initiative with strategy and were richly rewarded, despite Mercedes' best efforts as the race went down to the wire

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
US Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a baking hot afternoon at the returning Circuit of the Americas, Formula 1 drivers were tested to their limits. As the pressure on the title contending squads reaches an ever-greater level of intensity, the foremost challengers again showed their class, but were outshone by a standout drive from the upper midfield

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
Why F1's misunderstood party animal will thrive in retirement Plus

Why F1's misunderstood party animal will thrive in retirement

Three years on from Kimi Raikkonen's last Grand Prix victory at Austin, he is now six races away from ending the longest Formula 1 career in history. His friend and former Ice1 Racing rally team PR man ANTHONY PEACOCK explains why there’s nobody quite like the 2007 world champion and why F1 will miss him (but he won’t miss it)

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Plus

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material Plus

Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull Plus

How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be another close contest

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021