Honda keen to leave F1 'on a high' as new 2021 engine is confirmed

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Honda is pushing to end its official involvement in Formula 1 "on a high", F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says.

Last October, the Japanese manufacturer announced it would be withdrawing from the sport at the end of 2021, just seven years after returning with McLaren.

In that time, Honda has scored six wins, five with Red Bull and one with AlphaTauri, but a championship bid has remained elusive.

However, ahead of this season, Tanabe is confident Honda will be in a stronger position.

“Of course this is Honda’s last year in Formula 1 and in order to finish on a high note, everyone in Sakura and Milton Keynes is very determined and we feel we have prepared well for the coming season," he said after AlphaTauri launched their 2021 car last week.

"We won’t know for sure how good a job we have done until we hit the track, but so far preparation has gone smoothly.

"On the dyno the numbers we have seen match what we expected. Let’s see how competitive we can be on track in the actual races.”

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Like last season, engine suppliers won't be allowed to make any upgrades once the championship starts in Bahrain next month, something that left Honda in a tricky position with their plans.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we were going to introduce a new PU for this year, however, given all the difficulties and restrictions because of the long F1 shutdown and delay in parts supply, we had decided to postpone it to 2022," Tanabe explained.

"However, taking into account the decision that Honda would leave the sport at the end of 2021, we reassessed the situation and changed our plan again to reintroduce it in 2021.

"It was very tight timing to make this change, but we managed to bring forward the development and preparation programme. At Honda, we felt that we really wanted to use all our technical know-how before leaving the sport.”

Of course, such a move could lead to potential reliability problems, but the Honda chief played down the risk.

"In order to improve power and reliability, we have made modifications to the ICE (V6), turbine and ERS, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire PU," he revealed.

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The departure of Honda after this year though won't mean the departure of their engine, after agreeing a deal with Red Bull for the team to take production in-house as part of their new Powertrains division.

And Tanabe was pleased that would be the case,

“I think it is the right thing for Honda to do, considering our relationship with Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing, and how much Honda has benefited from those partnerships," he said.

"It also reflects the importance of our role and history, as part of the world of Formula 1 over several decades. So, I am glad that Honda has been able to help the two teams and the sport in this way."