Honda boss reveals Max Verstappen reunion wish for when Red Bull deal expires

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 2019 Austrian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen points to the Honda logo on his race suit after winning the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix.

Honda’s Koji Watanabe is hopeful of being able to work with Max Verstappen at some point again in the future.

The Japanese manufacturer has had a highly successful partnership with the Dutch driver, who has racked up 52 wins with Honda power en route to three consecutive Drivers’ Championships.

Honda and Max Verstappen set to part ways

Verstappen’s 2023 Miami Grand Prix victory, his 33rd with Honda power, saw him eclipse the win tally of the late Ayrton Senna with Honda – with Verstappen having added on a further 19 wins in the year since.

While Honda officially withdrew from F1 at the conclusion of 2021, the engines – badged as RBT and Honda RBPT in deference to Red Bull Powertrains – have all been manufactured and supplied by Honda through the engine freeze in place until the end of the current regulation cycle.

But this arrangement will end at the conclusion of 2025, when Honda officially returns as an engine supplier – but the manufacturer will switch over to Aston Martin as Red Bull forge a new path as an independent manufacturer with a partnership with Ford.

Having met with stellar success with Red Bull and Verstappen that has surpassed the achievements of the legendary Senna/McLaren/Honda combination, Honda’s decision to return to F1 came too late for Red Bull to back out of its own plans and means, for now, Verstappen and Honda will part ways at the end of next year.

Honda Racing Corporation president Koji Watanabe, speaking in an interview with Motorsport.com, said he hopes to one day be reunited with the Dutch driver.

“I don’t think that day will come within a very short period of time,” he said.

“But if both continue their Formula 1 activities in the future then we hope that we can work together again one day.

“It is a very good relationship. We trust each other and also the Honda workers love Max. We are proud to work together with Max, so we will miss him in the future.

“But we still have two years together and we promise to do our best to win another world championship together with Max and Red Bull.

“He is so important. He is the number one Formula 1 driver now. Of course, the team management is important and the machinery is important as well, but the combination is crucial and one important piece of that is Max.”

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Verstappen ended Honda’s dismal return to F1, which had seen the manufacturer struggle for years with McLaren, with victory at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix in the first year of Red Bull’s partnership with Honda.

On the podium, as pictured in the article image, Verstappen took pains to point out Honda’s contribution to the win, and the gesture won over Honda – the moment marking a proud moment of symbolism for Watanabe.

“My biggest memory is him pointing at the Honda logo on the podium in Austria at the Red Bull Ring,” Watanabe said.

“I was there, that was a very special moment for me. I was standing under the podium and that day was so special.

“He always thinks about Honda and says ‘Thank you, Honda’ a lot. He expresses his thoughts to the outside world about Honda, which is also important for all the people working for Honda.”

Verstappen remains under contract with Red Bull until 2028 and has hinted that he may choose to walk away from F1 when the contract expires – meaning the chances of a Honda reunion appear quite small at this moment in time.

The Dutch driver, who is the favourite to win a fourth world title with Honda power this season, said he is full of pride at what he and the manufacturer have achieved together.

“They will always have a special place in my heart even when, of course, they leave at the end of ‘25,” said Verstappen.

“I’m very proud also for them, from where we started as a team together and where we are at now. I think we can all be very proud of that.”

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