13 years have passed since a Honda-powered Formula 1 car crossed the line first. That was in 2006 with Jenson Button and the Honda BAR Team (British American Racing Team). They left the sport in 2009 and returned as an engine supplier for McLaren in 2015. We all know how that went.
But since parting ways with McLaren in 2018, Honda has since found more success with Toro Rosso and, this year, Red Bull Racing. After years of skepticism from pitlane pundits, Honda has been rewarded by a victory at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix with Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. The win comes weeks after Honda made upgrades to their powertrain unit with Verstappen calling it 'a step forward'.
Toyoharu Tanabe, technical director for Honda Racing F1, was elated by the victory. “Thanks to the efforts of all the Honda F1 staff in Japan and the UK, who worked tirelessly on our PU development, we finally made it, our first win in the hybrid era, the first since Hungary 2006. And a special word of thanks to all their families who supported them. Thanks of course to Max for a great drive and to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for providing him with a fantastic car,” said Tanabe.
Despite a bog start, Verstappen charged through the field on a recovery drive. He had a brief scare when he reported a loss of power, but a quick reboot of the system saw him passing through the field, dispatching Mercedes-AMG's Valtteri Bottas as soon as the car was reset. It even almost seemed certain that Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be poised for a victory at the Red Bull Ring. But with less than 10 laps to go, Verstappen mounted a late charge, diving on the inside of the Ferrari driver, and running away with the victory.
“Thank you to all the crew here, everyone at the factory and of course Honda, it’s not been easy for them over the past years but to win for them today is just incredible,” said Verstappen. With that, Honda, through Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, is the first engine supplier to break the winning streak of Mercedes-AMG in the current Formula 1 season.
Just a few years ago, Honda was going through difficulties in their F1 program. But their win in Austria could mean more teams considering moving to Honda power in the coming seasons.