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Honda jet tech drives first Formula One win in 13 years

Heat-converting engine helps power long-awaited comeback

Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the Formula One Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, on June 30.   © Getty Images/Kyodo

TOKYO -- Honda Motor clinched its first Formula One victory in 13 years at Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, with technology from its HondaJet aircraft propelling the winning driver in a simultaneous payoff for both long efforts.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing rode to victory in a vehicle with a Honda engine. The car was powered partly by energy conversion methods honed on the business jet, earning Honda its first win out of 89 competitions it has taken part in since returning to F1 racing in 2015.

The Japanese automaker's latest stint in the sport has been marked by setbacks, with occasional questioning by shareholders. But perseverance with honing its racing engines and the nearly three-decade development of the HondaJet helped deliver the long-awaited victory.

Honda first worked in F1 racing from 1964 to 1968, then from 1983 to 1992 and a third time from 2000 through 2008. Its current run began in 2015 through a team-up with British automaker McLaren, but that team fell apart after three years of lackluster results. But the Japanese company, defying whispers that it might withdraw once more, moved on to supply Italy's Scuderia Toro Rosso. This year, it began supplying the U.K.'s Red Bull Racing as well.

Current F1 rules require power units to run on a hybrid mix of internal combustion and electric power. Honda's convert exhaust heat into electrical power using technology brought over from the business jet, on which foundational research began in 1986. This boost, combined with the skills of the veteran Red Bull team, helped carry the day.

Keeping costly F1 operations running at all has been a risky bet. Honda's operating profit marked a second straight annual decline in the year ended March 31, with investments in its core business weighing heavily as the rise of connected, automated, shared and electrified vehicle technology causes a sea change in the industry.

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