Max Verstappen has revealed that he felt Honda’s exit from Formula 1 coming despite last week’s news coming as a surprise to many in the sport.
Honda only returned to F1 in 2015 and has been enjoying success in partnership with Red Bull, winning three races last year and another at Silverstone this season as it sits second in the constructors’ championship. There was also a shock win for Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri in Monza, but less than a month later Honda announced it will leave the sport at the end of 2021, something Verstappen had sensed was on the horizon.
“You could feel it coming,” Verstappen said. “Of course, you don’t show it but of course I also knew it a little bit earlier than the announcement. It’s a shame but understandable from their side.
“You have to understand them, their reasons. We just keep on pushing, that’s also what they said. They are going to pull out but they are not going to just back off now, just keep working together because we have a great relationship. It’s really enjoyable to work with the guys so for the rest of the year we’ll keep on going. And also for next year, with a new engine, I’m very much looking forward to that as well, to bring it to a good end and push until the last race.”
While downplaying the news of Honda’s impending departure, Verstappen admitted he started having doubts after signing a new long-term deal with Red Bull in the off-season.
“It definitely came after I signed the deal but they never committed a lot longer. So you could expect something like this — you’re never sure. That’s the same for teams as well. You sign a deal with them, but who knows what is happening in five years’ time.
“Like I said, you could feel it coming — I guess the whole situation in the world is definitely not helping. Especially from the beginning of this year onward, once we finally got started, it’s just not easy.”
Verstappen said Honda’s decision has not dampened his hopes of challenging Mercedes in the next few seasons, and he’s not against the potential prospect of a return to Renault power in 2022.
“It doesn’t at the moment –we’re still driving with them for one and a half years,” he noted. “Also, we’ve got the new regulation of cars coming in. So there are so many unknowns; at the moment it doesn’t make sense to think about that anyway.
“I’m just focused on what I have to do, and that is trying to drive the car as fast as I can with an engine in the back. I hope I’m not going to end up like Fred Flintstone and pedal it myself! It’s quite physically demanding. We’ll see again after next year.
“It’s not up to me to make the decision on the engines, so I’m open to anything.”