In a bombshell announcement on Friday morning, Honda has decided to leave Formula 1 after the 2021 season. It had been a challenging road since rejoining the series as a engine manufacturer in 2015 but it is the cost and re-directed focus of its resources that will see it’s back at the end of 2021.
In 2015, Honda resumed competition in F1, the most prestigious automobile racing series in the world, with the goal to win using its own energy management technologies. Initially, Honda experienced a number of difficulties; however, by demonstrating the collective strength of “All Honda,” including the utilization of its aircraft engine technologies, Honda has realized a high level of competitiveness.
As the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation, Honda has decided to strive for the “realization of carbon neutrality by 2050.” This goal will be pursued as part of Honda’s environmental initiatives which is one of the top priorities of Honda as a mobility manufacturer.
Toward this end, Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies, including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies. As a part of this move, in April of this year, Honda created a new center called Innovative Research Excellence, Power Unit & Energy.
Honda will allocate its energy management and fuel technologies as well as knowledge amassed through F1 activities to this area of power unit and energy technologies and take initiatives while focusing on the future realization of carbon neutrality. Toward this end, Honda made the decision to conclude its participation in F1.
Motorsports activities are in Honda’s DNA, and therefore Honda will continue to be passionate about taking on challenges and striving to become No. 1 in all categories of racing in which Honda participates.
It is a complete shame as the company had made tremendous progress with Red Bull and Alpha Tauri but the cost of the current hybrid engine has been a bane on the sport since its inception in 2014 and it has bankrupted three team, placed several other teams on life support and now will see a key engine supplier leave.
On one side you could argue that F1’s hybrid engine is a good proving ground for hybrid development and that it would lure manufacturers. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be alluring to Honda any longer and it isn’t bringing new engine manufacturers into the sport.
The hybrid power unit should have been changed a couple of years ago and when that didn’t happen, it should have changed for the 2022 regulations but teams are heavily invested in the tech and Mercedes wouldn’t be willing to give up their power unit advantage for obvious reasons.
It is a conundrum because F1 and the FIA want to be seen as environmentally sustainable with their hybrid technology. The technology they chose was too expensive for privateers to afford. The hybrid has been around since 2014 and companies such as Honda are no longer interested in its format and the cost of developing it.
F1 is taking a serious blow here and this leaves Red Bull racing in a very difficult situation. Now F1 will have three engines for 10 teams to choose from! Three! Last time Red Bull were in this situation, Mercedes would not sell them an engine and neither would Ferrari. This leaves Renault and that relationship is heavily strained. The series needs Red Bull and a solution will take F1’s assistance if it wants to keep a serious investor int eh sport such s Red Bull.
It is a very challenging situation and on one side you could argue that the series needs to go back to basics with a simple engine format that is affordable that would allow more engine manufacturers to enter or should the series go full FCV or EV and would that see it become a manufacturer-only series because privateers couldn’t afford the cost?
Red Bull Racing said:
Team Principal Christian Horner, said:
“As a Team we understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision to step back from Formula One at the end of the 2021 season. The shifting focus within the automotive industry has led to Honda’s decision to re-deploy their resources and we understand and respect the reasoning behind this. Their decision presents obvious challenges for us as a Team but we have been here before and with our strength in depth we are well prepared and equipped to respond effectively, as we have proven in the past.
“Whilst we are disappointed not to continue our partnership with Honda, we are enormously proud of our joint success, delivering five wins and 15 podiums for both Red Bull owned teams and we thank everyone at Honda for their extraordinary efforts and commitment.
“Our joint focus for the remainder of the 2020 and 2021 seasons are unchanged, to fight for victories and challenge for the championship. As a signatory to Formula One’s latest Concorde Agreement, Red Bull Racing remains committed to the sport in the long term and we look forward to embarking on a new era of innovation, development and success. As a group, we will now take the time afforded to us to further evaluate and find the most competitive power unit solution for 2022 and beyond.”