Fernando Alonso has a somewhat chequered history with Honda, but was not shy to congratulate them on their latest World Championship success.
The Spaniard famously made reference over the team radio to a “GP2 engine” when driving a McLaren with Honda power – embarrassingly for them, in the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.
But there are no hard feelings on the current Alpine driver’s part because he made a beeline to congratulate Honda officials in Abu Dhabi after Max Verstappen had clinched the Drivers’ title in the engine manufacturer’s final race before they exit Formula 1.
The recipient of Alonso’s wishes was Honda’s sporting director Masashi Yamamoto, with whom the two-time former World Champion still enjoys “a very good relationship” and refers to as “Yamamoto-san”.
“He was the first person I congratulated in parc ferme, right after Max,” said Alonso, quoted by Motorsport-total.com. “I’m happy for Honda.
“I think the management has been changed. They did a good job and brought in the right people. Honda introduced a new philosophy and made it work.”
— Honda Racing F1 (@HondaRacingF1) December 12, 2021
During Alonso’s four years in his second spell with McLaren, they had Honda power for the first three of those seasons and while he enjoyed three P5 finishes in 2015 and 2016, his most consistent campaign with the Woking-based outfit was arguably after they had switched to Renault engines for 2018.
By then, Honda had joined forces with Toro Rosso, and Red Bull’s flagship team followed suit a year later. Alonso, meanwhile, took a two-year break from F1 in 2019 and 2020 before returning this year with Alpine.
He recognises the improvement in Honda’s fortunes since they teamed up with the Austrian energy drink giant.
“When Honda left McLaren, I don’t think they were in a position to dream of winning the World Championship,” said Alonso.
“It’s a shame Honda is leaving now. But hopefully they will be back.”
In their absence, the new Red Bull Powertrains operation represents the engine programme being taken in-house for both the senior team, that savoured title euphoria with Verstappen, and AlphaTauri.
For Honda, it levelled up their numbers of Drivers’ and Constructors’ crowns at six apiece, being their first in either championship since 1991 when they completed the double via Ayrton Senna and McLaren.