Honda to pull out of F1 at the end of 2021


Honda will leave F1 at the end of 2021 to focus on battery and fuel cell development, leaving Red Bull and AlphaTauri looking for a new engine supplier

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Honda will leave F1 at the end of next season to concentrate on battery and fuel cell technology, leaving Red Bull and AlphaTauri in search of a new engine supplier.

In a surprise announcement, the Japanese firm said that its Formula 1 hybrid combustion engine did not fit with its goal of “realising carbon neutrality by 2050”.

The company did not indicate whether it would be prepared to sell the engine technology to another supplier, so that it could continue to be used and developed in F1.

It said that it would carry on its partnership with Red Bull and AlphaTauri “to continue competing with its utmost effort and strive for more victories all the way to the end of the 2021 season”.

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Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner confirmed the team would remain F1; it recently committed to the new commercial rights Concorde Agreement, which runs until 2025.

“Our joint focus for the remainder of the 2020 and 2021 seasons are unchanged, to fight for victories and challenge for the championship,” said Horner.”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.”

Honda announced its decision to leave the series in a statement released on Friday morning,  “Honda has decided to conclude its participation in the Formula 1 World Championship as a power unit supplier at the end of the 2021 season,” it said.

“As the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation, Honda has decided to strive for the ‘realisation 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.

Jenson Button in his McLaren during the 2015 F1 Australian Grand Prix

Honda returned to F1 in 2015 with a slow – and unreliable – start

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“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.

“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.”

The company said that “motor sports activities are in Honda’s DNA”, indicating that it was likely to enter new series where it could showcase its battery and fuel cell technology.

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The decision will be seen as a blow by Formula 1, which is developing plans to become carbon neutral, while retaining its hybrid combustion engines. Earlier this year, Pat Symonds, the series’ chief technical officer, said that synthetic fuel, made by combining carbon from the air with hydrogen, using surplus green energy, could make Formula 1 more environmentally-friendly than Formula E, while switching to two-stroke engines could improve the sound.

However, there are recurring questions over the relevance of F1 to manufacturers, who are increasingly focused on selling battery-powered cars.

Honda’s departure marks the end of its high-profile return to F1 with McLaren in 2015 that initially proved disastrous. Kevin Magnussen — standing in for an injured Fernando Alonso — suffered a blown engine on the way to the grid in his McLaren. Jenson Button in the second car was last of the finishers, two laps down.

The end of the partnership, following the 2017 season, came as a relief to both sides but it also marked an upturn in the engine’s performances. A promising season powering the Toro Rossos convinced Horner to switch Red Bull to the Honda unit in 2019; a partnership that has so far delivered five wins and 15 podiums for both teams, including Pierre Gasly’s recent Monza win for the renamed AlphaTauri team.

Max Verstappen points at his Honda badge after winning the 2019 F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen celebrates a Honda-powered victory in Austria ’19

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“Whilst we are disappointed not to continue our partnership with Honda, we are enormously proud of our joint success,” said Horner. “We thank everyone at Honda for their extraordinary efforts and commitment.

“We understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision to step back from Formula 1 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.”