Today saw the unveiling of the new Honda-powered Alpha Tauri AT02 Formula 1 car, the second team on the grid after McLaren to do so – and with it came news to give hope to Red Bull Honda drivers of Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez… perhaps the prospect of regular race wins in 2021.
The Honda-powered AlphaTauri AT02 will be driven this season by Frenchman Pierre Gasly and Japanese Yuki Tsunoda – who this year is making his debut.
Seventh in the manufacturers’ world championship with only 24 points behind the Scuderia Ferrari last season, the AlphaTauri team will try to this season to match, if not beat, its 2020 performance.
In order to do this, Honda has revealed a brand new engine (power unit), brought forward ahead of schedule, which is reputed to be far in advance of previous designs.
Originally, the Japanese manufacturer was not due to introduce a new engine until 2022, but following the group’s decision to withdraw from Formula One, this has been brought forward to 2021.
The numbers on the dyno are encouraging, thus giving hope to a real step forward for Red Bull in particular: “The numbers we have seen on the dyno have met our expectations,” says Honda’s project manager Toyoharu Tanabe.
“to improve performance and reliability we have made changes to the engine, turbine and ERS,” he reveals. “This is our fourth year with AlphaTauri, and to improve we’ve also improved the installation and packaging of the whole power unit.”
With the increase in power, along with rumoured Mercedes 2021 power unit issues, it’s entirely possible that Honda might have a swansong with Red Bull Racing before leaving the sport next year. Music to the ears of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez who will both be targetting regular wins this season.
The new engine had originally been set for it’s debut in this year but COVID restrictions and the lockdows, Honda postponed its new power unit to 2022.
“But after the decision in October 2020 that Honda would leave the sport after 2021, we reassessed the situation and changed our plan again to introduce it in 2021 after all,” Tanabe explains.
“But we managed to pull the development programme forward. We at Honda wanted to use all our technical know-how before leaving the sport,”
Explaining their continued committment to Red Bull with their signing over the power unit IP in 2022 so Red Bull can brand their own engine under the Formula 1 engine developement freeze, Tanube is positive saying :
“It was the right thing to do, considering our relationship with Red Bull and AlphaTauri and how much Honda has benefited from these partnerships.”
“It also reflects the importance of our role and history as part of Formula One over several decades,” said the Japanese. “I am happy that Honda has been able to help two teams and the sport in this way.”