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Honda has revealed details of the changes it has made to its power unit for the 2021 F1 season, its final year at the sport before pulling out.

Technical director Toyoharu Tanabe explained how the manufacturer, whose engines are used by Red Bull and AlphaTauri, has rejigged its upgrade programme for 2021 twice due the pandemic and Honda’s subsequent decision to end its F1 programme.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, we were going to introduce a new [power unit] for this year,” said Tanabe. “However, given all the difficulties and restrictions because of the long F1 shutdown, combined with the European lockdown and delay in parts supply, we had decided to postpone it to 2022.

“However, taking into account the decision announced in October 2020 that Honda would leave the sport at the end of 2021, we reassessed the situation and changed our plan again to reintroduce it in 2021.

“It was very tight timing to make this change but we managed to bring forward the development and preparation programme. At Honda, we felt that we really wanted to use all our technical know-how before leaving the sport.”

The AlphaTauri AT02, revealed earlier today, is one of two cars which will use Honda’s upgraded power unit.

“It is difficult to be specific about which parts have seen the most work,” said Tanabe, “but in order to improve power and reliability, we have made modifications to the ICE [internal combustion engine], turbine and ERS [energy recovery system]. This is our [fourth] year with Scuderia AlphaTauri and in order to improve as a whole, we have also improved the installation and packaging of the entire [power unit].”

Tanabe is encouraged by the new power unit’s performance in testing. “On the dyno the numbers we have seen match what we expected,” he said. “Let’s see how competitive we can be on track in the actual races.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2020
Honda ended 2020 on top thanks to Red Bull

Honda was the only manufacturer besides Mercedes to win races last year, scoring three victories with AlphaTauri and Red Bull. Tanabe said he is pleased the two teams will continue to use their power units after Honda’s departure.

“I think it is the right thing for Honda to do, considering our relationship with Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing, and how much Honda has benefited from those partnerships. It also reflects the importance of our role and history, as part of the world of Formula 1 over several decades. So, I am glad that Honda has been able to help the two teams and the sport in this way.”

“In order to finish on a high note, everyone in Sakura and Milton Keynes is very determined and we feel we have prepared well for the coming season in conjunction with Scuderia AlphaTauri over the winter so far,” Tanabe added. “We won’t know for sure how good a job we have done until we hit the track, but so far preparation has gone smoothly.”

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