I took some incoming on my post about Honda leaving Formula 1. I suggested that the current hybrid power unit, which has bankrupted three teams and put the rest of the non-manufacturers on life support, was a expensive formula, remained too long and is now threatening to keep F1 predictable with very limited changes in the 2023 engine regulation set.
Honda says it is leaving F1 to focus on FCV and EV technology. Specifically they said:
“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.”
In essence, the F1 engine is too expensive and doesn’t allow for the kinds of EV or FCV development that their new innovation center can provide. I took a lot of incoming a couple of years ago when I said that F1 is a terrific rapid prototyping lab for innovation and proof-of-concept development but it is naive to suggest that the road car division needs F1 and it’s engineering to remain relevant.
That notion betrayed the reality of just how advanced the current road car divisions of these manufacturers have become over the years. Honda’s innovation center is proof. I’m not so sure that the innovation isn’t actually working in reverse with the road car divisions helping F1 with their hybrid engines.
You may say I have not justified my dissatisfaction for the current engine formula and fair enough but here is announcement I saw over at The Race website that I believe proves my point pretty well.
“Both Chevrolet and Honda have both committed to supply the twin-turbo, 2.4-litre V6 engines under the new rules cycle. The new power unit – which uses a KERS system – was due to be introduced for 2022, but the implications of the coronavirus pandemic have led to the delay.”
I said, when it was announced that Ross Brawn was looking at a change to the engine regulations for 2021 (a couple of years ago now), that the best thing he could do was to change the formula to a twin turbo V6 with KERS. You have a hybrid component and a restricted fuel-flow efficient V6. You also have a better sounding engine too. Yes, I took heat for that ridiculous statement as well.
I told you so
So is this one big “I told you so” screed from me? Of course not. I’m not a genius and I don’t work in F1. I’m no F1 engineer or mechanic and I have very little hands-on exposure to back my concepts and ideas up.
The good news is, it does’t take all of that to simply suggest some common sense. The problem is that when the common sense you are espousing, even if it is 100% correct, is, in reality, only about 40-60% correct for the entirety of the grid due to personal agendas, money, politics and more. Time has a tendency to always push the common sense idea up from 40-100% or from 100% down to zero. That’s when you enter the “hindsight is 2020” area.
If I had a dime for every time I was wrong about something in F1 I could buy a hybrid power unit but there are times that my meanderings do end up ringing true. That isn’t because I’m brilliant, it’s because I’ve watched the series long enough to see history repeat itself. After six years, the hybrid power unit is still the elephant in the room and it is hurting F1.
The fact is, if Honda is willing to continue Indycar with a relatively inexpensive engine that still brings the Honda brand to millions of people and can win races and garner the respect that entails, then why wouldn’t they do that for F1?
Because it is too damned expensive. They will do their own FCV and EV innovation in the road car division and leave the racing for and affordable branding and marketing opportunity. This is what becoming an engineering championship has done to F1. At this point the series might be better off if the manufacturers left and the privateers bought Gibson, Honda and Cosworth engines and got back to racing. Or fans might be better off watching Indycar.