Checo Pérez was able to finish fifth despite starting last; Verstappen made pole and almost won in Bahrain. Honda has a lot to do with it
The first date of the 2021 F1 calendar confirmed the feeling that Red Bull has the car to end the Mercedes dynasty. The Austrian team has been distinguishing itself for years in the design of its cars, very capable of cornering, but suffered from power. The matter seems resolved for Checo Pérez and Max Verstappen.
Everything was resolved in six months, which was how long it took Honda to rebuild its Power Unit. “Changing the structure of the PU (power unit) with only six months until testing and the first round was incredibly challenging,” he said. Yasuki Asaki, Head of Research and Development Department from the Japanese brand to F1.com. “But thanks to the hard work that everyone put in we were able to carry out the development, we ran well in the tests and prepared for the first round.”
It turns out that both the preseason and the first race were held on a circuit where engine power plays a determining factor. In qualifying, Max Verstappen knew how to squeeze the most out of the RB16B and its power plant, and achieve pole position with four tenths of a difference compared to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes – which always have an extra speed for the qualifying sessions.
In the race, Vestappen was strategically defeated as on the track the Mercedes were never close to passing him, something that Max almost achieved at the end of the competition when he attacked Lewis to regain first position. For its part, Checo Pérez, thanks to the speed in the straight and in the curve, was able to finish fifth despite starting from last place. “We explained that with the old engine we could not beat Mercedes, and that we would need the new one to do so. To win, we needed to implement the new power unit and therefore we started working on it. “Ironically, on the same date Honda announced that it would not continue in F1 beyond 2021. Red Bull will take the job from Honda to build. their own engines.
“With the help of Honda Motor we had input on production methods and we were able to produce certain parts at three times the speed we normally would and get the units needed for the first race.” Asaki commented.
“So if all goes well, we think this will contribute to Red Bull’s capabilities. And it is also a sign of the almost miraculous technological achievement that we have been able to achieve. “
To generate more power, Honda’s department made its block even smaller, making it more fuel efficient as well. “We changed the pitch of the hole by reducing the distance between one hole and the next, so we have made the engine smaller and smaller,” described the Japanese. With the smaller and lower engine, the car’s center of gravity improved, as did the weight distribution, giving the team scope to design a car that will accommodate this year’s sensitive aerodynamic modifications – a triangular trim floor, a smaller diffuser.
“We had a lot of cooperation from Red Bull, making sure we could get the most out of this new compact engine,” added Asaki. “This was the first time we changed the structure of the UP itself.”
The result was not only reflected in Red Bull’s performance. AlphaTauri points out as a tough rival in the middle zone. Yuki Tsunoda in his F1 debut scored points and was the third fastest in the Speed Trap of the race; Pierr Gasly entered Q3 qualifying even better than the McLaren-Mercedes.
The Imola track will not be as demanding on the engine and will test the design of the single-seaters more, but after Bahrain it can be accepted that this year, Red Bull will really have wings.