If you’re a fan of Honda in motorsports, then yesterday would have been a day to remember. The Japanese automotive giant secured victories in three of its biggest race series, headlined by Max Verstappen’s scintillating win at the 2021 Formula 1 French Grand Prix.
The young Dutchman took pole for Red Bull Racing at Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday, but in the windy conditions and on less-than-grippy tarmac he squandered that advantage by running wide at the first chicane – allowing title rival Lewis Hamilton to sail past. However, Verstappen pitted earlier and used the powerful undercut to retake the lead from the seven-time champion.
The Honda-engined team then engineered a gutsy two-stop strategy by bringing Verstappen into the pits again, forcing Mercedes-AMG Petronas onto a compromised one-stop race. On newer tyres, Verstappen scythed through the resultant gap to the leaders, first dispatching Valtteri Bottas on lap 44 and then making a last-gasp pass on the Briton on the penultimate lap, securing an extra point for the fastest lap in the process.
Further back, new teammate Sergio Perez ran long on his first stint, then used his fresher tyres to make light work of passing Bottas to take the final podium position. The strong result extended Verstappen’s championship lead over Hamilton to 12 points (131 points vs 119) and Red Bull’s over Mercedes to 37 points (215 points vs 178). AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished seventh to cap off a successful weekend for the Bulls.
It’s easy to forget that Honda is also the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, and in MotoGP, Marc Márquez took home an emotional victory for the Repsol Honda team at the German Grand Prix. The Spaniard won his first race since breaking his arm in an accident at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, which resulted in nine-month break from the sport.
Starting fifth, the still-recovering Márquez made a fantastic start, going up to second at the first corner and securing the lead by the end of the first lap. There he stayed despite changing conditions at the Sachsenring, holding off KTM’s Miguel Olivera to take the chequered flag just six races on from his Jerez mishap.
It’s not just in Europe where Honda reigned supreme – over in the United States, another Spaniard, Alex Palou, won the IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Road America for Chip Ganassi Racing. Like his compatriot, Palou started fifth on the outside of the front row; he gradually made his way up to second until a problem for the Chevrolet-engined Team Penske car of Josef Newgarden handed him the lead with two laps to go.
Behind him, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta finished second, gifting Honda its second 1-2 finish in 2021. In fact, the carmaker dominated the upper end of the results, clinching all but one of the top eight finishes. Palou’s lead in the driver’s championship now stands at 23 points over Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward.
Honda also finished strongly in domestic single-seater racing, with Dandelion Racing’s Nirei Fukuzumi taking the win ahead of TCS Nakajima Racing’s Toshiki Oyu at Round 4 of Super Formula in Sportsland Sugo.
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