Honda announced in October 2020 that it would pull out of F1 after the 2021 season, with partner team Red Bull moving the engine production in-house at its Milton Keynes campus for the power units used by both Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri.
While Honda will aid Red Bull with its power unit, Honda’s F1 director Masashi Yamamoto previously stated the development “will be totally controlled by Red Bull but in accordance with Red Bull’s request”.
Honda started its most recent spell in F1 with a fraught three-year partnership with McLaren, which was terminated early after the 2017 season due to a lack of results and an increasingly difficult working relationship off it.
In the early years Honda particularly struggled with the MGU-H development and with marrying its engine concept to McLaren’s specific design needs, while communication between both parties also proved a hurdle.
McLaren switched to Renault for the 2018 season, while Honda attracted Red Bull’s B-team Toro Rosso, paving the way for a full-blown Red Bull partnership from 2019 onwards.
Two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso, who was driving for McLaren during all three Honda years, also did little to endear him to the proud Japanese company, infamously calling its power unit a “GP2 engine” during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
But now Honda is leaving F1, Alonso says he is happy to see the manufacturer win and sad to see it leave the series.
“Obviously, when they left McLaren, I think they were not in a point of dreaming of the Formula 1 championship. But they did a very good job, they appointed the right people,” Alonso said when asked by Autosport on his thoughts about Honda leaving F1.
“I think they changed the management, and they introduced a new philosophy and they did the job, and I’m so happy for them. And I’m sad that they are leaving now. But hopefully they come back.”
Alonso said despite the rift caused by the McLaren-Honda split, he is now on good terms with Yamamoto and said he immediately went over to Honda’s F1 chief after Verstappen won the world title in Abu Dhabi.
“I was speaking with Yamamoto-san, all these 3-4 last grands prix, because I have a very good connection with him,” Alonso revealed.
“He was the guy that allowed me to test the MotoGP, etc, and we are still in a very good relationship. And he was the first guy that I congratulated after Max in parc ferme, so I’m happy for them.”