That’s unlikely to happen until F1’s new powertrain rules are introduced. In the interim period, Red Bull has found an ideal replacement to Honda power units: Honda power units. The company has bought up Honda’s Milton Keynes-based operation to become an engine constructor in its own right, albeit with the assistance of Honda engineers for next season.
Which makes you wonder: when Honda quit after 2008, the chassis that it funded, developed and built won the following year’s title. So after Honda quits in 2021, could a powertrain that it largely funded, developed and built win the 2022 title? Based on Verstappen and Red Bull’s current form, you can’t dismiss that possibility.
Nor, to be honest, could you dismiss the prospect of Honda eventually returning to F1. Its imminent future may be focused on EV road cars, but beyond that, when the sport has a technology that Honda needs to invest in, you get the feeling that it will be back. Until that point, at least this time, it seems likely that the firm will be able to celebrate going out on a high.
What could’ve been
Had history turned out differently, it’s possible that a Verstappen would have been racing in F1 for a works Honda team 20 years before the firm supplied Max’s Red Bull. In 1998, Honda strongly began to consider returning to F1 as a full constructor and hired ace technical chief Harvey Postlethwaite to establish a squad. A test car, the RA099, was built by Dallara and took part in a number of tests in 1999 with Jos Verstappen – Max’s father – driving.