Heading into the final race of this season with the World title on the line, Honda chief Masashi Yamamoto says he doesn’t know if they’ll be “smiling or crying” come Sunday evening.
Max Verstappen goes into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tied with Lewis Hamilton on 369.5 points.
It is, however, the Red Bull driver who is holding down P1 as he has won more races than Hamilton, nine is to eight.
The storyline for Sunday is very simple, whoever finishes ahead will be crowned the 2021 F1 World Champion.
For Verstappen it would be his first title while Honda were last involved in a Drivers’ Championship victory back in 1991 when Ayrton Senna won the title with McLaren-Honda.
It promises to be a bitter-sweet day for Honda no matter how the championship battle plays out.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the Japanese manufacturer’s final race in F1, Honda having announced last year that they’d be leaving after the 2021 season, Red Bull taking over the running of the power units.
“Finally, we have come to the last race of the season here in Abu Dhabi,” Yamamoto said.
“It’s an important moment and not just on the track, because this weekend marks the culmination of Honda F1’s latest seven year stint in Formula 1.
“It is therefore with mixed emotions of sadness and happiness and many memories, both good and bad that I look forward to this last weekend.
“However, it’s also true that the championships are not yet decided and, along with Red Bull Racing, we are fighting hard against Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton for both titles.
“Therefore even if our time in this sport is coming to an end, our commitment to performing at our best this weekend is as strong as always.”
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) December 9, 2021
Sunday’s race marks the culmination of a long, and at times difficult, return to Formula 1 for Honda.
The company initially partnered McLaren but after three wretched seasons swapped to AlphaTauri, then known as Toro Rosso, before linking up with Red Bull in 2019.
Honda won 15 grands prix with Red Bull and one with AlphaTauri.
“Honda returned to Formula 1 in 2015 and the project did not always go smoothly,” said Yamamoto, “with many highs and lows and it was very tough, especially in the beginning.
“When I think back to those early days, I am very proud that today we are going into the last race of our final year, about to fight for the championship.
“Winning the titles has been our dream and we have progressed towards it step by step.
“Now, that dream is almost within our grasp, but I honestly do not know if we will be smiling or crying after Sunday’s race.
“All our team members will go into this weekend, alongside our colleagues at Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, ready to show Honda’s challenging spirit.
“We will be following our dreams all the way to the chequered flag, dreams we share with our fans who have supported us through the bad times as well as the good and we know they will be with us as we chase this dream to the very end and we thank them for that.”