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 car 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 Motorsport.com.

"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."

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.

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

Photo by: Erik Junius

"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.

"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.

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].

Read Also:

"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

Former McLaren boss Whitmarsh to return to F1 with Aston Martin
Previous article

Former McLaren boss Whitmarsh to return to F1 with Aston Martin

Next article

Albon explains why Williams was first choice for F1 comeback

Albon explains why Williams was first choice for F1 comeback
Load comments
Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up Prime

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. We break down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Formula 1
Jan 21, 2022
Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems Prime

Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway, but instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Prime

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Prime

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. James Newbold hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwart.

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Prime

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Prime

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in the 2021 F1 season Prime

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in the 2021 F1 season

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as Stuart Codling finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
How Fangio set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton in F1 Prime

How Fangio set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton in F1

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. Nigel Roebuck recalls a remarkable champion.

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022