Honda says that lessons learned from Red Bull’s terrible wet Formula 1 starts in Turkey last year were key to unlocking its recent brilliant getaways at Imola.
Max Verstappen’s triumph at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was helped by a sensational getaway from third on the grid that helped him leapfrog pole man Lewis Hamilton.
The start in tricky damp conditions marked a breakthrough for Red Bull-Honda, with previous starts when the rain has hit having been a struggle because of problems getting the engine mapping and clutch settings right.
Most famously, in Turkey last year, the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Alex Albon were left almost stationary at the wet start as poor launches dumped them into the pack after the lights went out.
Honda said that a deep analysis of what happened in Istanbul helped deliver answers about what it was doing wrong – and that allowed it to address things much better for this year.
Honda’s F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe said that he was happy the Japanese manufacturer was able to prove that its wet weather weakness had now been sorted.
“We’ve been reviewing with the team the start settings, and thoroughly examining what went wrong in Turkey last year,” he explained about the efforts made over the winter.
“We had to think about what settings we had to make to improve it. It was achieved through a combination of things: such as clutch control on the car side and output for the required torque on the power unit side.
“The start system is very complex and we continue to develop it with the team this year. The result is now clear though and we were able to prove the result of this development.
“I think it was very good that Max was able to pass Hamilton after the dash from the start. I think it was worth it.”
Honda’s progress over the winter with its power unit has contributed to its strong start to the campaign, with it now having taken a pole position and a victory so far.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner thinks Honda is now in a ‘similar bracket’ with Mercedes in the power stakes – and has at the very least matched where the German car manufacturer was at the end of 2020.
“Honda have done a super job,” Horner told Motorsport.com. “I think we can measure that they’ve matched where Mercedes were at the end of last year. And, you know, they’ve obviously thrown a huge amount of effort into this year, their last year in the sport.
“They intend to go off on a really high note, so I’ve been really impressed with the effort that they’re putting in.”