Honda has made immense progress ever since returning to Formula 1. Powering Red Bull for the first time, Honda managed to secure 3 victories with the team in a stellar debut partnership.

Honda before Redbull partnership

Honda’s involvement in F1 stretches back to the 60s- winning in only their second season in the sport. This was followed by some fairly decent performances at a time when Ferrari dominated Formula one. At the end of the decade, Honda left the sport-but this wasn’t the end for the Japanese manufacturer.


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Honda returned in the 80s but as an engine supplier. What followed next was one of the most successful partnerships in F1 history. Winning six consecutive Constructors’ championships and powering F1 legends- Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to championship glory. Honda would then drop out of the sport yet again.

Sadly, for Honda, the third time wasn’t the charm. The team dabbled as an engine manufacturer and a constructor in the early 2000s but with very limited success. The Japanese giant would leave Formula 1, yet again.

In 2013, Honda announced its plans to return to F1 but as an engine supplier for McLaren from 2015. This was enough to convince Fernando Alonso, who jumped ship from Ferrari to McLaren. Fans were of the opinion the magic from the 80s would be recreated again.

What followed though, was an absolute disaster. The Japanese manufacturer failed to produce an engine that was reliable or quick – resulting in many mediocre performances. For 3 years Honda was at the receiving end of many of Fernando Alonso’s quips. Including the infamous “GP2” remark at the supplier’s home Grand Prix.

Redemption with Red Bull

Honda was humiliated and they had a point to prove. In 2017, Honda signed a deal with Toro Rosso- supplying engines to the Red Bull sister team for the 2018 season. The partnership was fairly successful, prompting Red Bull to take on Honda for 2019.

At the beginning of the year, Helmut Marko proudly proclaimed that Red Bull was aiming for 5 wins in the season. Fans ridiculed the wily Austrian but little did we know Honda meant serious business.

2019 was a year of redemption for Honda. Some of the highlights of the season were- 3 victories for Red Bull, 2 podiums for Toro Rosso and a race that saw a Honda-powered car out drag a Mercedes. Honda was back and was a force to be reckoned with.


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Moving towards 2020, Honda will be hoping to repeat last years’ success and take the next step forward-becoming champions. According to the latest reports, Honda has had a very positive winter test and may become a serious threat to Ferrari and Mercedes.

“Alongside Mercedes it will be Red Bull with a flying start in 2020. My sources confirm that particularly Honda has improved significantly over the winter” said Luigi Perna of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

‘I think they will be able to challenge Ferrari from the first race on‘ concluded Perna on the podcast Pit Talk.


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Ferrari had the best engine in the field in 2019. The SF90 was unmatched when it came to sheer pace and straight-line speed.  This greatly assisted the team at power-hungry tracks like Monza and Spa.

In 2019 Honda developed various upgrades for its engine. Red Bull most recently ran the Spec 4 engine- which promised significant performance gains while retaining efficiency. Should Honda make a serious step up, Red Bull may be favorites for a 5th world championship.

Written by

Abhishek Bharadwaj


One take at a time

Abhishek Bharadwaj is an F1 author and content strategist at EssentiallySports. Having joined ES in January 2020, he has over 700 articles to his name. While he was first introduced to the world of F1 in 2006, he started religiously following the sport in 2012 and has had an undying passion for it ever since.
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