Honda will leave Red Bull and Formula 1 in its entirety after the end of this season. It’s a decision nobody’s thrilled about. Not Red Bull, who’s found the exclusive engine partner in Honda that it’s needed to return to winning ways; not Honda F1, whose Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe said he personally regrets the manufacturer’s departure; and not the fans, who are finally getting an exhilarating battle for the championship in large part thanks to the strides Honda’s engineers have made.
But the decision is final, and Red Bull will pick up the pieces by acquiring Honda’s IP and hiring much of its personnel (and poaching some of Mercedes’) to continue where Honda will leave off. All that’s left, then, is celebrate the work the two entities have done together. That’s exactly what Red Bull plans to do this weekend at the Turkish Grand Prix with a throwback livery.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez’s cars will run with a white-and-red color scheme echoing that of the 1965 Honda RA272, the manufacturer’s first F1 chassis and the first Japanese-built car to win an F1 race. Red Bull hasn’t revealed the full livery yet, but a short teaser on Twitter hinted at a Red Bull logo on the nose, in a similar position to where the “circle of the sun” was placed on the RA272.
On the wing, “arigatou” — “thanks” in Japanese — appears written in hiragana. A very quick cut shows a peek at more Red Bull logos adorning on the sides of the engine cover. AlphaTauri will also run a modified livery alongside its sister squad, though it may only carry “arigatou” on the wing, according to ESPN.
Overall it should make for a touching gesture and a pretty race car. Honda’s always had good-looking F1 machines, going back to its British American Racing days (the less said about the Earth car, the better). Besides, F1 could always use more throwback liveries. But why save this tribute for the Turkish Grand Prix of all places? The race at Suzuka was originally penciled in for this weekend, before it was canceled in August.
It’s upsetting that Red Bull and Honda won’t have the opportunity to celebrate in front of a home crowd, but at least they have something to celebrate in the first place. After the disaster that was McLaren and Honda’s failed partnership — a marriage so toxic it kept Fernando Alonso out of an Andretti Autosport seat in IndyCar — I never imagined we’d witness Honda end its F1 tenure on a high note. Whether Verstappen winds up 2021 world champion or not, at the very least Honda’s certainly leaving on its own terms.