Max Verstappen feels that winning the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka was "perfect" for Red Bull's alliance with Honda. Verstappen won the race – marking his 12th victory of the season –, and then thanks to a rules quirk which awarded full points and a post-race penalty for nearest challenger Charles Leclerc, was crowned World Champion for the second time. It was particularly special for Red Bull and Honda, who teamed up together in 2019 and won the 2021 Drivers' title with Verstappen before the firm withdrew at the end of that season. There have been suggestions that Honda is looking to re-enter F1 with Red Bull for the 2026 power unit regulations, and had a 'soft' appearance at its home track of Suzuka with 'HONDA' logos on the Red Bull and AlphaTauri machines, replacing the HRC ones they have so far used this term. And Verstappen, who became the first Honda-powered driver to win the title at Suzuka since Ayrton Senna in 1991, says the timing was "perfect."
Verstappen on Honda
"At the moment, it does feel perfect [to have won at Suzuka]," Verstappen explained to media in his World Champion press conference. "It's not only because we are driving with Honda, and we've been really working together with them now for a few years – and with all the Japanese fans around – it's also where we came from together. "Because I think everyone, or most people, told us we were crazy when we started to work with them. Is it going to work out? Because they had a tough time at that time, [with McLaren between 2015 and 2017]. "But you just never give up and [give] full dedication to make it work, and that's what happened. "Of course, already last year, we were very competitive, but it's even better this year. That's why I'm really proud of the whole team. "I'm also very proud of everyone within Honda for that mentality, because it's hard when you have a lot of criticism on you. There's a lot of pressure because people are demanding a lot. "You need to perform and you need to show results. But I think they stayed calm. "They knew what they had to do, eventually, and look where we are now."
Highs and lows
When asked to pick his high and low lights for the season, Verstappen selected perhaps the best drive of his F1 career to date for the former. "The [Belgian Grand Prix] Spa weekend," he said. "Because I think that was just total dominance. "These kind of weekends, they very rarely happen like that, and especially when I came home that night, I started to reflect a bit on the weekend, and you realise that it was pretty crazy and pretty special." At Spa, Verstappen took a crushing pole, but started 14th due to grid penalties. By Lap 12 he was leading the race and was not headed again after Lap 18 thanks to the superiority of the RB18 on the fast, flowing track. As for the low-lights, Verstappen picked out the start of his title defence. "Well, the main low moments were in the beginning of the season with the retirements because, even if you have a little bit of a bad race, you always have to score points. "Retiring is the worst thing that can happen." Fuel system problems in both Bahrain and Australia left Verstappen with just 25 points compared to Leclerc's 71 after three races thanks to two wins and a second – to Verstappen in Saudi Arabia – and three fastest laps.