The Red Bull-Honda partnership is just four seasons old, as the Japanese brand powered the Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2018 and expanded to the full fat RBR in 2019. Honda had a rocky time re-joining the grid with an ailing McLaren in 2015 and by 2017 both parties were at each others throats, blaming each other for failure. Thankfully Red Bull was able to make the Honda a winning powerplant in short order, and has only gotten quicker in 2020 and 2021. Despite a short time in the sport, Honda is abandoning F1 again at the end of this season for the fourth time in its history.
This weekend was originally scheduled to be the Japanese Grand Prix, but it was cancelled yet again this year out of fear for the international spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Red Bull’s planned sayonara to Honda will go on as planned in Turkey instead of Japan. It’s a weird set of circumstances, but still a very cool and welcome tribute to the brand.
The tribute includes a one-off special livery in throwback Honda Championship White with red accent, paying tribute to the rising sun livery the company wore when it first joined F1 in the 1960s. The cars also carry the characters for the Japanese word ‘arigato’ with a hearty and heart-felt thank you to the powerplant manufacturer. The Alpha Tauri cars will also carry the thank you message.
Rather than switching to a new powertrain supplier in 2022, Red Bull will take over the intellectual property and production of Honda’s V6 hybrid power units later this year ahead of the revised chassis requirements next season. It would likely be too much of a pain in the ass for Red Bull to have to build a brand new chassis to new regulations and build a relationship with a new powerplant manufacturer at the same time. As a result the fizzy energy drinks company will start its own engine division called Red Bull Powertrains.
RBR’s Max Verstappen currently sits 2 points behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton with seven rounds remaining in the championship. Perhaps this special livery will be enough to push him to his eighth victory this season, or perhaps it will go about as well as the last time Mercedes decided to run a special one-off tribute livery. We’ll see when the Turkish Grand Prix goes off this Sunday.