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Red Bull Racing Honda RB16B - 2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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  • As raced by Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez at the Formula 1 Rolex Turkish Grand Prix 2021
  • Each model hand-built and assembled by a small team of craftsmen
  • 1:8 scale model, over 69 cms/27 inches long
  • Made using the finest quality materials
  • Thousands of precisely engineered parts: castings, photo-etchings and CNC machined metal components
  • Built using original CAD designs and paint codes supplied by Red Bull Racing Honda

The car that delivered a first championship since 2013, the Red Bull Racing Honda RB16B was an evolution of the double race winning RB16 of the 2020 season. Piloted by Dutch favourite Max Verstappen, in his sixth year with the team, and Mexican Sergio Pérez, who joined from Racing Point, the RB16B proved its mettle, taking the fight to the hybrid-era dominating Mercedes team. Though the team would ultimately be unsuccessful in its Constructors’ title aspirations, Verstappen emerged victorious against the reigning Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton in an intense season-long battle that came down to the final lap at the final race in Abu Dhabi. It was a season filled with drama, on-track action and controversy, in which Verstappen was ultimately crowned the first Dutch World Champion.

The RB16B was based on the same chassis as the 2020 car, as dictated by the 2021 regulations after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted teams to agree to a series of cost-reducing measures, including a postponement of the new regulations and a majority freeze of the current rules. However, though the car shared its name and under-structure with the previous season’s car, the team had made general refinements in every component. Aerodynamic improvements were visible on the nose, the car featured new brake ducts for the front discs, and the bargeboards had undergone further development. The car’s floor was reduced by about 100mm towards the rear, as per the regulations. Much of the interest about the Red Bull was focused on the rear of the car, with the team having spent its two development tokens adjusting its gearbox carrier and rear suspension, to improve the car’s aerodynamics at the rear end, something of particular importance with the regulation changes made to reduce downforce. The only major difference that could be seen with the naked eye on the rear wing was a new single central pylon support. The 2020 RB16 broke Red Bull tradition with a double-supported rear wing, but with the RB16B the team returned to a more familiar concept.

The real beating heart of the RB16B was the 2021 power unit: the Honda RA621H. After their announcement that they will be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the season, the Japanese manufacturer implemented all their scheduled 2022 changes into the 2021 power unit in an attempt to equalise the performance of their unsurpassed Mercedes competitor. Some features of the RA621H included a notably lowered and more compact camshaft layout, a different valve angle and shorter cylinder bore spacing than its predecessor, effectively creating a significantly smaller engine with a lower centre of gravity. From 2022 onwards, Red Bull managed their own engine development within a new “Red Bull Powertrain” department.

Honouring Honda's vital contribution to Red Bull's success in 2021

Honda announced towards the end of 2020 that the 2021 season would be their last in Formula 1, having returned to the sport to power McLaren back in 2015. They first supplied AlphaTauri back in their Toro Rosso days in 2018, before supplying both Red Bull teams from 2019 onwards.

With their close collaboration coming to a close at the end of the 2021 season, Red Bull were keen to honour the vital contribution Honda have made to their success. Their gratitude was expressed in this special livery for the Turkish GP, taking inspiration from Richie Ginther’s 1965 Mexican Grand Prix-winning Honda RA272. 

The Turkish Grand Prix 2021 Race

Max Verstappen earned a second place for Red Bull Racing Honda at the Turkish GP, reclaiming him the championship lead. With Sergio Pérez right behind him, the team scored its second double-podium of the year and the first since the French Grand Prix nine races ago.

It was an unexpected result at a circuit where – until race day at least – Red Bull looked to be on the back foot. Sunday's weather threw a curveball into the mix and Verstappen took full advantage. Incessant drizzle kept the circuit damp from the first lap to the chequered flag, so much so that only one lap of the entire race (by Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel) was completed on a dry-weather tyre. For every other driver, the race became one of nursing intermediate tyres on a circuit that wasn't wet enough for full wet Pirelli rubber but not dry enough for slicks. It was akin to walking a tightrope at speeds nudging 300kph in the spray, a task that made for a race that was more mentally draining than physically exhausting.

Afterwards, Verstappen intimated it wasn't his most exciting afternoon. Asked by David Coulthard in the post-race interviews about the most difficult part of his race, Verstappen laughed and replied: "staying awake!" Nevertheless the points made a vital contribution to the outcome of the championship battle.