Red Bull and AlphaTauri will race with special one-off liveries at this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix in tribute to outgoing Formula 1 engine partner’s Honda.
Honda announced last year it would be leaving F1 at the end of 2021 just six years after returning to the sport as an engine manufacturer.
Following a difficult start in the V6 hybrid era with McLaren, Honda forged a partnership with Toro Rosso in 2018 and immediately began to regain credibility with a much-improved power unit.
The Japanese manufacturer’s progress was enough to convince Red Bull to switch to Honda power for the following year, laying the foundations to mount a title bid.
Over the past four seasons, Honda has powered both Red Bull and AlphaTauri to victory, with 13 wins, eight of which have come this year, and counting for Red Bull.
There was also a memorable victory for AlphaTauri on home soil at Monza in 2020, 12 years on from its maiden triumph at the same circuit.
To mark what would have been Honda’s home race following the cancelation of the Japanese Grand Prix, Red Bull and AlphaTauri will run “unique liveries” in homage to Honda before it bows out at the end of the season.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez’s RB16B’s will feature a predominately white colour scheme, in a nod to Honda’s first-ever race-winning F1 car – the RA 272 – that won the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix.
On the other hand, AlphaTauri’s rear wings will sport a message saying arigato, that translates as thank you in english.
“We had all been looking forward to giving Honda’s Japanese fans a chance to celebrate our extremely successful relationship in Formula One, on home soil at Suzuka,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
“With the race falling victim to the pandemic, we just couldn’t let the weekend pass without paying tribute to Honda and its amazing home fans by bringing a little bit of its heritage to Istanbul.
“The livery chosen for our cars pays homage to Honda’s remarkable F1 journey and hopefully we can give fans another victory in those legendary colours this weekend.”
Honda’s chief officer for brand and communication operations Koji Watanabe said while the tribute cannot make up for Suzuka’s absence, he felt it was a way of showing its appreciation to the fans for its continued support.
“Everyone at Honda is extremely disappointed that the Japanese Grand Prix has had to be cancelled, while fully understanding and agreeing with the reasons behind this decision,” he said.
“We were especially keen to race at Suzuka Circuit, as it is our last year in the sport, at a time when both our teams are performing very well. We also appreciate that the Japanese fans were particularly looking forward to seeing Honda’s last appearance here and Yuki Tsunoda driving in his home race.
“We know that a special livery cannot replace what would have been a very exciting weekend, but we hope that Honda fans around the world, especially those in Japan, will accept this special livery as a small token of our appreciation of their continued support over so many years.”