Max Verstappen: Honda partnership ‘perfect’ despite ‘crazy’ accusations

Ahead of the 2022 Japanese GP, Honda announced that they'd be returning to a larger role with the Red Bull family

Max Verstappen’s second World Championship couldn’t have been won at more of a fairy-tale venue, with the Dutchman having matched the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mika Hakkinen at the home of Honda, Red Bull’s beloved partner.

When Red Bull announced at the end of 2018 that they’d be ditching Renault’s power units in favour of Honda’s, the Austrians were labelled as “crazy”, given how woeful McLaren were whilst powered by the Japanese manufacturer.

Fast forward a few years and it’s been a match made in heaven, with Red Bull having raised their game with the help of the Japanese company.

2021 was the peak of their relationship, as Max Verstappen claimed his first World Championship and Red Bull’s first Drivers’ World Championship since 2013; however, Honda announced that 2021 would be their last as an official partner of the team.

Max Verstappen pays tribute to Honda after beating Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.v1

READ: ‘Underrated’ Lance Stroll tipped to challenge Fernando Alonso at Aston Martin

Honda’s departure from the sport saw the Milton Keynes-based side open their own power unit department, despite still receiving power units and some technical support from the manufacturer.

The entire project was more Red Bull-run than Honda-run, despite the carmaker keeping a foot seemingly in the door.

That foot in the door became an entire body, as Honda announced prior to their home race that they would be returning to Red Bull and AlphaTauri in a much bigger role, similar to the one they held prior to their departure.

This new agreement saw the company’s logo return to the front of both teams’ cars, with the deal set to last until at least the end of 2025.

Article continues below

According to Verstappen, the relationship is “perfect”, with the returning Japanese GP having been the perfect place to announce their return.

“At the moment it does feel perfect,” Verstappen told Formula 1’s official website.

“Because it’s not only because of just, you know, that we are driving with Honda, we’ve been really working together with them now for a few years, and with all the Japanese fans around.

“[The fans], they love motorsport, they love Formula 1.

“And they really always dress up for the occasion. It’s really nice to be here.

“First of all, this is an amazing track. I love coming to Japan in the first place.

“And also all the fans, they wait for you, all the evening, all the night, they probably even sleep in their cars to then see you in the morning again, so they are very dedicated.

“It’s definitely very special always to come back here. That’s why three years [away] was definitely too long,” the Dutchman insisted.

The partnership was born at the Japanese race back in 2018, where the Austrians were immediately labelled as “crazy”.

It’s safe to say that perhaps Red Bull weren’t crazy for merging with Honda, whereas McLaren were for letting the side go.

“It’s also where we [Honda and Red Bull] came from together,” Verstappen recalled.

“Because I think everyone, or most people, told us we were crazy when we started to work with them back in the day, ‘is it going to work out’, you know, because they had a tough time at that time.

“But you see, never give up and full dedication to make it work, and that’s what happened. Of course, already last year, we were very competitive, but even better this year. And that’s why I’m really proud of the whole team and I’m also very proud of everyone within Honda for that mentality.

“Because it’s hard when you have a lot of criticism on you. And there’s a lot of pressure, because people are demanding a lot and you need to perform, and you need to show results. But I think they stayed calm and they knew what they had to do, eventually, and look where we are now.”

Verstappen’s titles in 2021 and 2022 both came with the help of an incredibly strong Honda power unit, with the Dutchman having claimed Honda’s first title since 1991 with victory last season.

Verstappen’s 2021 success was Honda’s first world title since Ayrton Senna’s 1991 World Championship, representing a 30-year wait to return to the top.

Both titles came in dramatically different fashion, with 2021 having been a season-long fight against Lewis Hamilton, whereas 2022 has been somewhat of a cruise.

The 25-year-old revealed that he felt “very different emotions” when claiming his second crown, with the two seasons having nothing comparable, apart from Verstappen ending on top!

“I mean, very different emotions, of course,” added Verstappen.

“But also that’s because of the whole season anyway being very different. And you’re already starting with completely different cars, a completely different way of racing. And then, of course, also the amount of races we’ve won.

“But also they all came in quite a different way. Like, last year it was all really qualifying-dependent, and that’s how you would normally win a race.

Interestingly, the Red Bull ace explained that he had the “worst kind of feeling” prior to the 2021 season finale, where himself and Hamilton entered the race level on points.

The 2021 finale was the definition of winner-takes-all, with Verstappen having been the victor, currently.

For really the first time, Verstappen opened up on claiming the title last year, but how winning this season is “definitely the better one”.

“Last year, all the way until the last race is probably the worst kind of feeling, going into that last race,” Verstappen recalled.

READ: Christian Horner on team’s ‘blame culture’ and how he turned it around

“But also because at the time, I don’t think we were the quickest anymore, so that also doesn’t help. And this year, I think, it’s just been very, very different in emotions from the start, all the way through to the year.

“But you know, both are beautiful and both are, at the end of the day, nice to experience because it’s nice also really to have always the pressure on and having to perform to your limit every single lap of the race, but not for too many years in a row. So, I was very happy with the year we had this time around.

“I think the first one is always the most emotional, but I think this one is definitely the better one, just in terms of performance,” he concluded.