Honda’s new power unit (PU), the RA621H, makes its first appearance on the opening day of pre-season testing in Bahrain.
Once again, Honda has supplied two teams their engine for the 2021 F1 season, Red Bull Racing Honda and Scuderia AlphaTauri, ahead of leaving the sport at the end of the campaign.
The Japanese manufacturers have developed a new PU for the upcoming season, the RA621H, hoping it can lead Red Bull to challenge Mercedes AMG Petronas for championship titles.
Last year Honda took three race wins, two courtesy of Max Verstappen at Silverstone and Abu Dhabi, one race win with Scuderia AlphaTauri through that spectacular win at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix.
We have already seen the new PU in action, and it looks as competitive as before, with Verstappen fastest overall on the first day of winter testing, setting a time of 1:30.674.
Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull Racing Honda, is hopeful of a competitive season with the RA621H PU, he said: “As we enter our third season with Honda there is a real sense of determination within the Team as we all strive to deliver the maximum on-track performance in what marks the final year of our existing partnership.
“We are measuring ourselves against formidable opponents but we are a Team of true racers and share the same goals as Honda, which means our determination to be in a title fight strengthens year on year. Honda has invested significantly in hybrid technology to ensure our supply of competitive PUs and we thank them for this continued drive to increase performance.
“Together with our fuel partner Exxon Mobil, Honda have worked tirelessly over the winter to ensure we are able to utilise every ounce of performance from the new PU in the RB16B and in turn our engineers are doing the same on the chassis side.
“Realistically, it won’t be until a few races into the season that we truly see how we measure up against our competition but we are ready to embrace this challenge with Honda and our experienced yet exciting driver line-up in Max and Checo.”
AlphaTauri also enjoyed a fantastic opening day of testing in their 2021 cars, with Pierre Gasly setting the eighth fastest time in the morning session.
Rookie Yuki Tsunoda also made his on-track debut in front of the cameras after joining the team back in December, going ninth fastest overall after taking over the rein from Gasly for the afternoon session.
Franz Tost, Team Principal of Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, said: “2021 will be the fourth year of our partnership with Honda and during that time, their engineers in Sakura and Milton Keynes have done a fantastic job.
“Honda has invested intensively in hybrid technology and currently, the Honda PU has reached a high level of competitiveness, while also being reliable and for this year, there are further developments on the PU, so I expect this will also improve our performance.
“Our relationship has always been efficient and enjoyable, which is why we will be sad to see Honda leave Formula 1 at the end of this year. However, we can look forward to continuing to use its technology through the newly created Red Bull Powertrains company.
“It’s the best possible solution for both Red Bull teams and it’s also a great incentive to achieve the best possible results in Honda’s last season in the sport.”
Koji Watanabe, Chief Officer for Brand and Communications Operations at Honda Motor Company, said: “Today sees the start of pre-season testing. Last year we took one race win with Scuderia AlphaTauri in the third year of our partnership, as Pierre Gasly claimed his first ever F1 victory and courtesy of Max Verstappen, we took two wins with Red Bull Racing in our second year together.
“However it was frustrating that we were not able to match the top team. This is our last year in F1 and our goal is to win the championship. In order to do that, we have to be competitive right from the very first race and we hope to do a high mileage over this test, making progress with both teams.
“While we have great respect for all four of our drivers, we are particularly pleased to welcome Yuki Tsunoda at Scuderia AlphaTauri, who came through the Honda driver development programme. He is a rookie, but he proved his talent and speed in last year’s Formula 2 championship.
“We will give him all the support we can to help him achieve his goals in F1. Finally we know that Honda has a lot of fans around the world and we hope that in 2021 we will provide them with plenty of excitement on track and some great results to repay them for their support.”