When Max Verstappen crossed the finish line first during the Austrian Grand Prix 2019, it was celebration time for Red Bull. It was also a time of joyous tidings for engine partner, Honda as well, as it was their first win since 2006.
Since their last win was 13 years ago, Honda’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe could be forgiven for being a little lost. As it turned out, he was late to the Austrian GP podium because he had “no idea” what to do.
Austria’s triumph is Honda’s first victory since the Japanese manufacturer made a return to F1 in 2015. Tanabe was appointed Honda’s F1 technical director in 2017 and has been the reason behind some of the supplier’s major improvements. To honour his contribution, he was chosen to represent Honda on the podium.
Unfortunately, since he was unused to the podium ceremony protocol, he missed the Dutch and Austrian national anthems. The good news was that he arrived in time to receive the trophy for the constructors.
“I was surprised when I was told ‘you go’ [to the podium],” Tanabe confessed to Motorsport.com.
“I had no idea what I should do. That’s why I got on the podium a little later than the others. You need to stand before the national anthem, I thought, ‘I must be there’, but I was late.
“This is the first time, of course. [I thought] ‘I’m so upset, what should I do?’ Nobody told me! But it was fantastic. I could see our team members below, also Red Bull, they were very happy, and a lot of fans there too.”
Such was the scene of Honda’s triumph that former F1 driver Gerhard Berger even hugged Tanabe. This was mostly because Tanabe was Berger’s engineer back in McLaren during the 1990 Formula One season.
“Honda has not done this alone and so we want to acknowledge the contribution of our outside suppliers,” said Tanabe.
“This win is also a way of saying thank you to all our fans, all over the world, for their continued support. We have been back in this sport since 2015, but today feels like a new beginning.
“While we can enjoy the celebrations for a short while, we must get back to work as soon as possible, because we still need to close our performance gap to the quickest teams.”