Honda will cease to participate as an engine provider for the Formula 1 racing series at the end of the 2021 season in order to increase its focus on electric vehicles, the company said in a statement.
Honda’s stated goal to become a carbon-neutral company drove the engine maker to shift its F1 development budget to consumer vehicle applications. “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” the statement said.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team and its secondary F1 level team, Scuderia Alpha Tauri, are two of the main competitors affected by the announcement. Honda engines have seen victory only twice this season so far, with Austrian Max Verstappen in England and also Frenchman Pierre Gasly’s surprise win in Italy.
It’s the second departure for Honda from the F1 racing circuit, which is owned by billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media Investment Group. Honda left F1 in 2008 amid the global financial crises, only to return in 2015 as a supplier for McLaren. Global auto sales are in decline due to the coronavirus-driven pandemic, and Honda chief executive Takahiro Hachigo said in a news conference the company would retrench in its efforts to build fuel-cell and electric vehicles. Honda does not plan to participate in Forumla E, the electric car racing series.
“Their decision presents obvious challenges for us as a team,” Christian Horner, Team Principal of Red Bull Racing said. “Whilst we are disappointed not to continue our partnership with Honda, we are enormously proud of our joint success.” Aston Martin Red Bull has been competitive with Honda power plants, and the team is in second place in the F1 standings after finishing third last year.
The move leaves F1 with three power unit suppliers: Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault. Under the current F1 rules, Renault, which supplies the fewest teams, would have to supply Aston Martin Red Bull with engines unless the team completes a deal with Mercedes or Ferrari.
With ten of the 17 COVID-modified season’s races complete, Verstappen sits third in the championship behind the both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Unless of extreme circumstances affecting the remainder of the events, Verstappen will likely not advance higher in the standings.