Formula 1: Incorrect Honda Upgrade Claims Detracted From Red Bull Gains

Honda’s Formula 1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe credits Red Bull for improving a lot on their chassis in the 2021 F1 season.

Toyoharu Tanabe
Toyoharu Tanabe

It seems like Honda has made Red Bull sore high in the sky against their rival Mercedes. Having won the previous five grand prix for the first time in the turbo hybrid era, Red Bull have clearly white-washed each and every team by their strategies and engine on the track. This has made Red Bull and their ace driver Max Verstappen grab the numero uno spot in different standings.  

In the middle of that five-race run, Honda introduced fresh engines at the French Grand Prix, where there was unexpected scrutiny following comments from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and world champion Lewis Hamilton suggesting the engine be more powerful. And Hamilton followed up those comments in the two subsequent weekends as well. 

Honda’s Formula 1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe on Red Bull 

Red Bull and Mercedes
Red Bull and Mercedes

Performance upgrades are not allowed during the season as part of cost-saving measures agreed by F1 last year, so Red Bull and Honda were keen to emphasise that no such development had been made with the second engine. 

Tanabe explained during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend why Honda had taken great care to ensure the reliability tweaks it made for the second engine did not inadvertently increase the engine’s performance at the same time. 

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez

He said after the race that he didn’t “care very much” about the inaccurate suggestions of an upgrade but suggested Red Bull’s aggressive development programme with its RB16B deserved more credit. 

“Performance at the track always comes from the package of the car, the chassis and the power unit,” Tanabe told The Race“Maybe people pointing at Honda power unit improvement is not good for the Red Bull people. 

A revised front wing, rear wing, bargeboard package and diffuser were among the changes introduced either in France or for either of the two Austrian races. 

Christian Horner
Christian Horner

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was prompted to criticize Hamilton’s theories as “some way from reality” while Verstappen said he would print out pictures of the Red Bull and Mercedes rear wings to prove the differences were responsible for any straightline speed offset. 

Tanabe said he was “not so surprised” by Hamilton’s comments because drivers tend to see engine power as the cause of any straightline speed deficit, but indicated Mercedes should know Honda had done nothing untoward with its second engine.

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