HOCKENHEIM, Germany — After Max Verstappen’s second victory of the Red Bull-Honda era, the Japanese manufacturer couldn’t help but make reference to one of Fernando Alonso’s infamous put-down of its engine four years ago.
Verstappen claimed a stunning win at Hockenheim, which turned into an instant classic full of twists and turns and remarkable drama. It was his second win in the last three races and came with the added bonus of Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso, also powered by Honda, claiming the final spot of the podium courtesy of Daniil Kvyat.
The Austrian Grand Prix was Honda’s first F1 victory since the 2006 season, made all the more emotional after the difficult years the company endured as McLaren’s engine supplier between 2014 and 2017. Arguably that partnership’s most notorious moment came at Honda’s home race in 2015, when Alonso, frustrated at the underpowered engine inside his car, opened his radio channel to declare he had a “GP2 engine” — GP2 was the name of what is now Formula 2, F1’s main feeder series, so it was a massive insult.
The embarrassment of the comment has clearly been hard to shake. Shortly after the Germany result, Honda’s official Twitter account made a playful dig at that comment, posting a picture with the caption: “He’s done it again. GP2 victories in 2019”. It then added a reply to that post saying, “2 GP victories, *Autocorrect”
— Honda Racing F1 (@HondaRacingF1) July 28, 2019
McLaren spent much of its time as Honda’s partner blaming the Japanese manufacturer for its struggles. It then endured a humbling season of struggles in 2018, its first year with Renault power.
By contrast, Red Bull has been hugely complimentary of Honda since starting the partnership this year — both parties are quietly hopeful the package can challenge Mercedes for the championship in 2020. That might be a tall order given Mercedes’ significant advantage at this stage, but not many would have predicted two Honda victories before the summer break when the season started in March.