On 19 February, the first Honda-powered car of 2021 – Scuderia AlphaTauri’s AT02 – was unveiled.
2021 will be the Japanese manufacturer’s last season in Formula One, but Red Bull and Scuderia AlphaTauri will continue to run their power units for the next few years as part of a recently inked deal.
Despite Honda deciding to exit F1, the automotive company has upgraded its 2021 power unit in the hopes of having a strong, potentially Championship-winning final season in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Speaking at the launch of Scuderia AlphaTauri’s AT02 this week, Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanabe commented on the upgrades they have made.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were going to introduce a new [power unit] for this year. However, given all the difficulties and restrictions because of the long F1 shutdown, combined with the European lockdown and delay in parts supply, we had decided to postpone it to 2022,” Tanabe said.
“However, taking into account the decision announced in October 2020 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 we really wanted to use all our technical know-how before leaving the sport.
“It is difficult to be specific about which parts have seen the most work, but in order to improve power and reliability we have made modifications to the ICE [internal combustion engine], turbine and ERS [energy recovery system].
“This is our fourth year with Scuderia AlphaTauri and in order to improve as a whole, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire [power unit].
“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,” he added.
Tanabe also touched upon the deal they agreed with Red Bull which will allow the Milton Keynes-based team and Scuderia AlphaTauri to continue to use their power units post 2021.
“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 added.
“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 Honda has been able to help the two teams and the sport in this way.
“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 in conjunction with Scuderia AlphaTauri over the winter so far.
“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,” he concluded.