Hondas Tanabe on launching new engine earlier: 'Challenging'

Published on 21 February 2021 by Mike Motilall

Honda have gone the extra mile in their provisional final year in Formula 1 to be of service to Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri as best as possible. Regarding the launch of the new power unit, which was initially scheduled for 2022, Honda have decided to advance the date by one year. This will enable both teams to appear on the grid with a completely new engine this year.

Toyoharu Tanabe, Hondas Formula 1 technical director, explains their decision: “Before the covid-19 pandemic, we were going to introduce a new PU for this year. However, given all the difficulties and restrictions because of the long F1 shutdown, combined with the European lockdown and delay in parts supply, we had decided to postpone it to 2022. However, taking into account the decision announced in October 2020, that Honda would leave the sport at the end of 2021, we reassessed the situation and changed our plan again to reintroduce it in 2021. It was very tight timing to make this change, but we managed to bring forward the development and preparation programme.”

The Japanese cannot be held accountable for a lack of effort and according to Tanabe, many improvements have also been made: “At Honda, we felt that we really wanted to use all our technical know-how before leaving the sport. It is difficult to be specific about which parts have seen the most work, but in order to improve power and reliability, we have made modifications to the ICE, turbine and ERS. This is our third year with Scuderia AlphaTauri and in order to improve as a whole, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire PU. On the dyno the numbers we have seen match what we expected. Let's see how competitive we can be on track in the actual races.”

Despite that Honda will leave the sport at the end of this season, Red Bull and AlphaTauri will remain using the Japanese power unit for the coming years. After it was announced last week that the further development of the engines will be frozen for a period of four years after 2022, the path was clear for Red Bull to take over all intellectual property from Honda. For Tanabe this was a fitting solution: “I think it is the right thing for Honda to do, considering our relationship with Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing, and how much Honda has benefited from those partnerships. It also reflects the importance of our role and history, as part of the world of Formula 1 over several decades. So, I am glad that Honda has been able to help the two teams and the sport in this way."