Honda have announced they’ll leave F1 as an engine supplier after the 2021 season, to focus on carbon-free engine technologies.
Honda rejoined F1 in 2015 powering McLaren, and then switched to a more successful Red Bull partnership which culminated last season with Max Verstappen taking the first Honda F1 victory since 2006.
It looked as if they’d turned a corner in the 2019 season, with Verstappen’s victory going alongside the iconic image of Pierre Gasly outdragging Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes engine up the hill to the line at Brazil
A Honda statement 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 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.”
Their initial foray with McLaren, reuniting the legendary partnership that powered Senna and Prost to victories, was rocky in the extreme.
The team struggled and finished in ninth, sixth and ninth across their three seasons together and both parties quickly at odds with each other.
The tensions reached their climax at the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix – Honda’s home race – when Fernando Alonso called their power unit a GP2 engine.
This season they powered Max Verstappen to victory at Silverstone, and then Pierre Gasly’s win in the AlphaTauri-Honda at Monza made them the first engine supplier to win races with two different teams in the V6 era.
However, there’s also been problems with the engine considered the second slowest in the field at some races, and several reliability problems that have damaged Red Bull’s chances.
Honda added that they’d turn their existing F1 facilities towards carbon-neutral technologies alongside the expertise they’ve amassed in the sport.
In a Red Bull statement, Team Principle 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.
“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.”