As the chequered flag fell on the final lap of the Mexico City Grand Prix, Max Verstappen was victorious for a ninth time in 2021. With these 25 points also came assumptions from some race fans that both F1 titles would be heading to Red Bull Racing for the first time since 2013. However, what followed was back-to-back wins for seven-time F1 Drivers' Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton after his dominance in Interlagos and Qatar. Now, the title race has narrowed once more and the momentum pendulum seems to have swung towards Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Nevertheless, with just two races of a breathtaking F1 season remaining, Honda is determined to do all they can to battle back against the Silver Arrows. Comments from Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda's F1 Technical Director, on Japanese medium AS-web declared ''We will work with the team to get the most out of our engine and make sure we are optimally prepared for the last two circuits''
Despite the fact that the 2021 F1 season will be the last to feature Honda branded engines (although Red Bull Powertrains will use its IP in 2022 and beyond) the Japanese engine manufacturer is determined to go out in style. As such, they are unsurprisingly doing all they can in their titanic battle with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
Honda are well aware that they could close out the 2021 F1 season with both titles. Max Verstappen holds an eight-point lead in the F1 Drivers' standings over Lewis Hamilton. Meanwhile, in the F1 Constructors' Championship, Honda powered Red Bull Racing are a mere five points away from top position – currently held by Mercedes. However, there is also the possibility that they may claim neither title following the resurgence of Mercedes.
Toyoharu Tanabe, Technical Director for Honda F1, announced that the engine manufacturer is working hard to learn from its 2021 success to date (as well as its failures) in order to give their all in the last two Grands Prix.
"We have two races to go. One in Saudi Arabia and one in Abu Dhabi a week later," Tanabe told AS-web. "We have to make sure we look back at what we have done this year and what we can still do at the last two Grands Prix. We have a lot of work to do."
A lot of work to do but not a lot of time.
Lewis Hamilton's recent back-to-back victories demonstrated Mercedes’ dominance. The straight-line speed shown by the Brackley-based team at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix surely struck fear into Red Bull Racing fans. The exact same engine will return for this weekend's upcoming Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
However, after the recent Qatar Grand Prix, Honda seem to be less concerned about the Mercedes straight-line speed than they were a fortnight ago. The comments coming from Tanabe show that the Japanese engine manufacturer feel it was a very track specific situation.
"The characteristics of the circuit have a big effect on straight-line speed, but our feeling is that at the Losail International Circuit there was no longer such a big difference between Mercedes and Honda," Tanabe said. "We will work with the team to get the most out of our engine and make sure we are optimally prepared for the last two circuits.''
As much as the performance gap may have narrowed, momentum is surely a factor. With this in mind, Tanabe admits that the title battle has the potential to go either way.
"We always want to have the wind in our sails, of course," Tanabe said. "We've had that a lot this year. At the same time, we've also had a lot of wind against us and that's ultimately how we got to this point. I don't know how the wind will blow in the future. Maybe we'll have a little more wind with us, or a little more wind against us.
However, an engine can only do so much and it is the sum of all its parts that wins a championship as Tanabe also recognises as he remarked “It all depends on the combination of chassis and engine, on the whole package. As Honda, we now need to start thinking about what is possible, rather than just following. That is what we will do in the next two races."
One of Honda’s most famous adverts was accompanied by the track ‘The Impossible Dream’. The company’s own slogan is that of ‘The Power of Dreams’. Having powered Red Bull Racing to 10 victories so far in 2021 they are desperate to ensure their dream of a double championship becomes possible and does not evolve into a nightmare.