There were enough signs to convince Red Bull to join them, and Verstappen secured their first podium in a decade in the Australian GP, before going even better to win Red Bull's home race for a second straight year, taking Honda's first win since Button's in Hungary in 2006 for their short-lived works team.
Brown orchestrated McLaren's split from Honda – something that may have hampered the team's efforts to win the Indianapolis 500 with Alonso earlier this year, but the American graciously celebrated the win as something that was "good for F1".
Honda were clearly jubilant, several of their staff-members in the Red Bull garage bursting into tears when Verstappen took the chequered flag.
In a list of thanks post-race, McLaren's name was perhaps conspicuous by its absence.
"Thanks to the efforts of all the Honda F1 staff in Japan and the UK, who worked tirelessly on our PU development, we finally made it, our first win in the hybrid era, the first since Hungary 2006," Honda's technical chief Toyoharu Tanabe said.
Every hour on the dyno, every failure, working to be better, working around the clock around the world.
"We must not forget the great contribution made by Toro Rosso, who helped us get back on the right path last year.
"We have been back in this sport since 2015, but today feels like a new beginning. While we can enjoy the celebrations for a short while, we must get back to work as soon as possible, because we still need to close our performance gap to the quickest teams."
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