Word is that in 2017 when the Honda-McLaren debacle was at its lowest point, the Japanese Auto giant’s big shots gathered at the headquarters where they were faced with the prospect of folding their Formula 1 project and quietly disappearing into the distance while saving buckets of money.
Apparently, the withdraw from F1 motion was discussed at length. There were two choices: 1) they accept failure and depart or stay involved to save face and prove McLaren wrong.
When decision time came it was: “あそこに出かけて彼らの尻を蹴りましょう！” which translates to: “Let’s go out there and kick their butts!”
Red Bull chiefs who risked all with this venture, as well as their drivers Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, have been quick and constant in their praise for Honda who are now geared to supply two teams for the first time since they returned in 2015.
It is clear Dieter Mateschitz and his lieutenants have done their homework on diplomacy (which they lacked with their French partners) as ‘that warm and fuzzy feeling’ of a new romance between Red Bull and their new Japanese partners is mutual, the obsessive target to win races and titles is shared.
Honda’s motorsport boss, Masashi Yamamoto praised Red Bull in an interview on the official Honda F1 website, “All the decision-making and execution of Red Bull is always decided thinking: How we can win the race and championship?”
“It is always their first priority anytime, everyone in the team is working together towards such a clear target. This impression has not changed from the time of negotiation until now. It is a pure racing team and we are excited to work with such an outfit.”
After the humiliation with McLaren all eyes are on Honda to step it up and deliver the goods for their new partners adding to the burden of expectation that inevitably is attached to the project.
Yamamoto conceded, “In terms of the pressure, we already knew from the beginning of the conversation that they are obviously a big team and all the fans and media have high expectations for them so, to be honest, there’s not much change there either. We were ready for it.”
“You could describe it that half of our feeling is one of big pressure but the other half is of positive expectation,” he added.
Red Bull is clearly, and for obvious reasons, the number one focus of their title shot, but Yamamoto insists Toro Rosso will remain a high priority regarding the Power Unit supply as Honda are now geared up to supply and service four cars, as opposed to two, for the first time since their return in 2015.
He explained, “It is the same for both teams in that we are targeting achieving better results through the year. As Honda ourselves, we’ll keep working hard on the development and try to introduce the updates during the season as planned, but also we want to win races. We want to make this season the year we get it right to challenge at the top.”
Tales of a new positive spirit blowing through the Red Bull factory in Milton Keynes are plentiful, and according to Yamamoto the same applies to the troops 10,000km away at the Sakura factory.
He said, “To be a partner with such a big team like Red Bull, it is a big pressure for Honda but also it is for sure a very big chance for us. We believe we can have a good relationship together where we can have open communication with mutual respect, just like we have built with Toro Rosso.”
“We can’t be sure if we can immediately compete at the level to fight for the top until we actually see our cars running on track, but I strongly think this is a partnership which we can make steps forward together,” added the Honda motorsport chief.
His organisation’s main, and substantial, success in F1 has been as an engine supplier, partnering to F1 world titles with McLaren (4) and Williams (2) while collecting 69 grand prix victories with cars powered but Honda.