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How did Red Bull succeed with Honda where McLaren failed?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalist Dieter Rencken has given his take on the differeces between Honda's title-winning partnership with Red Bull and their previous, less successful period with McLaren.

To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Dieter Rencken, F1 journalist with RacingNews365.com, has detailed the possible reasons for Honda being able to achieve success with Red Bull in Formula 1, whilst their previous partnership with McLaren failed.

The Japanese manufacturer's collaboration with Red Bull began in 2019, and this season the two sides have enabled Max Verstappen to clinch the Drivers' World Championship for the first time. This also marks Red Bull's first title since 2013.

Meanwhile, Honda's prior stint in F1 with McLaren, between 2015 and 2017, did not yield such success. 2015 saw the team face numerous reliability issues and, whilst there were signs of improvement in 2016, the relationship had deteriorated by the following year, prompting McLaren to switch to Renault power units in 2018.

Previous domination with McLaren

The McLaren and Honda partnership of the 2010s was a far cry from their previous era together in the late 1980s, where the two sides experienced great success together, most notably the back-to-back world titles won by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost for the team.

Rencken believes that one of the reasons behind Honda's struggles with McLaren the second time around may have been due to the memories of their prior achievements.

"How come it worked with Red Bull but not with McLaren? I think the reason is twofold," he said on the RacingNews365.com F1 Podcast.

"The first one is that I believe McLaren and Honda just thought, 'We dominated in the late 80s, early 90s. So it's just going to be a shoo-in, you know, Honda and McLaren fit together and we'll go and do it all over again', whatever, not realising that things have changed.

"And in fact on on Sunday, when I spoke to Yamamoto-san [Masashi Yamamoto], the Managing Director of Honda F1, I said to him there, 'What was the reason?' And he said, 'We thought it would be easy'.

"And it took me back to 2010/2011, when the the hybrid engine formula was first announced, and I happened to be at Renault [Red Bull's engine supplier at the time] and I heard exactly the same words, then, 'Oh, you know, we know how to do it'."

Where Honda were going wrong

Rencken thinks that Honda may also have underestimated what was required to "build a fully integrated hybrid engine" when the hybrid era began in 2014.

"Let's not forget that during the 80s turbo era, you had, effectively three of the current engine manufacturers in there," he explained.

"You had Honda, who dominated. You had Renault, who won an awful lot of races and in fact challenged for championships. And you had Ferrari, who didn't actually shape that well. And you didn't have Mercedes and Formula 1 at all at that stage.

"And yet, if we have a look at the balance of power, it is actually the exact reverse. You've got Mercedes, followed by Ferrari, followed by Renault and then Honda, certainly that was what it was like until about three years ago.

"And somewhere along the line, Mercedes had turned around and said, 'We have no experience in building Formula 1 turbo engines at all. So let us start with a clean sheet. Ferrari said, 'We had a lot of problems back then, we didn't fully understand them, so we'll also start with a clean sheet.

"Renault said, 'Oh, we know all about turbos. We were the first ones with turbo engines, etc. What we'll do is we'll take a V6 engine, a Renault V6 engine of the type that we had back then, and just bolt on the hybrid element'. And Honda did exactly the same.

"So the more experienced ones had chronically miscalculated what it took to build a fully integrated hybrid engine. And that, I think, was the original problem, which is why Honda couldn't get it to work. It was always a hybrid side that didn't work.

"It wasn't the Internal Combustion Engine. And it's only once they realised that you've got to have a fully integrated power unit as opposed to a hybrid engine that they got it right."

A fitting exit for Honda

Honda previously announced that they would leave F1 at the end of the 2021 season.

In terms of whether there are any regrets, Rencken believes that there could be, but acknowledges that the manufacturer may be satisfied with their accomplishments.

"Are there any regrets? Yes, I think there are," he said. "But equally, one could turn around and say it's mission accomplished.

"So what else is there to do other than get beaten next year, possibly?"

Listen to the full episode of the RacingNews365.com F1 Podcast below!

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