Honda are eager to ensure they leave Formula 1 with the “legacy” of adding another World Championship to their collection.
The Japanese company’s involvement in F1 dates back to 1964, but their “golden time” was from 1986-91 when their engines powered Williams and McLaren to six consecutive Constructors’ Championships and five Drivers’ titles for Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Since then, Honda have been in and out of the sport, but with no further significant success until teaming up with Red Bull and AlphaTauri from 2019 onwards.
Last autumn came the announcement that Honda would be making 2021 their last season for the foreseeable future due to a change in company strategy, so they threw everything they had into trying to go out with a bang by turning Red Bull and Max Verstappen into champions.
That remains a realistic possibility, even though their big leads in the respective standings were wiped out at the British and Hungarian Grands Prix, with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton moving ahead.
The ambition remains as strong as ever for Honda to round off their latest seven-year stint in Formula 1, which began disappointingly back at McLaren, by hitting the highest of targets.
“This F1 programme is going better than the last one because in the last one we just won one race,” Honda’s F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto told The Race.
“Now we have five consecutive wins and pole positions, those kinds of things.
“Rather than comparing the third era, which is what we call the 2000s, we are comparing against the second era [1983-1992], which is the golden time.
“That’s our target. We will try to reach that.”
"Honda had been back in Formula 1 for four years before joining up with Red Bull and we had not even scored a podium finish, so we have come a long way to be now fighting for the championship together with @RedBullRacing." #PoweredByHonda
— Honda Racing F1 (@HondaRacingF1) August 25, 2021
The success Honda have enjoyed with Red Bull certainly provides vindication for their decision to stay on after the depressing times of their reunion with McLaren from 2015-17.
“It’s a very big difference,” said Yamamoto. “If we had quit after 2017, there’s nothing left really. No legacy at all.
“But if we can win the championship and we leave after this year, our engineers will get huge confidence in the achievement. They will know how to succeed. It would be really something big for Honda.
“We have a motivation to win the championship regardless of if we leave or stay.
“But Honda people had another step of motivation when we heard Honda is leaving at the end of 2021, especially from an engineering point of view.
“We are now showing our best, which is coming from all seven years of effort. If we keep continuing and we achieve the target, we think we will show everyone in the world what we can do.”