Honda has announced it will conclude its participation in Formula 1 as an engine supplier to the Red Bull and AlphaTauri teams post the conclusion of the 2021 world championship. "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," said the company in a statement. Honda has said that it will "funnel" its resources in R&D for the future of power units looking towards technologies like fuel cells and battery technologies - with the core goal of having carbon-free technologies. Honda in April already had created the Innovative Research Excellence, Power Unit and Energy.
"Honda will allocate its energy management and fuel technologies as well as knowledge amassed through F1 activities to this area of the power unit and energy technologies and take initiatives while focusing on the future realisation of carbon neutrality. Toward this end, Honda made the decision to conclude its participation in F1," the company revealed.
Honda has renewed its commitment towards its partners in F1 - Red Bull and AlphaTauri - but this move likely leaves the two teams in the dark as they wouldn't have an engine supplier post the 2021 season. This is not the first time Red Bull finds itself in such a position.
Honda entered F1 with a tumultuous partnership with McLaren in 2015 which ended in 2017. Fernando Alonso who had joined McLaren from Ferrari had famously called the Honda engine a GP2 engine at its home GP at Suzuka.
The partnership soon ended and Honda ended up supplying Red Bull which was having a similar relationship with its long-time engine supplier Renault which by now had a works team as well. Red Bull boss Christian Horner and Renault Boss Cyril Abiteboul share an antagonistic relationship.
Ferrari has previously denied supplying Red Bull engines mostly due to its prowess of developing a world championship-winning chassis thanks to the talents of Adrian Newey who is considered the best designer in F1. Even Mercedes may not be open to supplying its engines to Red Bull as it may be able to beat the 6-time world champions if it had access to its engines which are considered to be the best in the business.
After McLaren ended its relationship with Honda it signed for Renault engines, but soon after it got Mercedes engines, a deal which will get actualised in 2021. Renault for its part has shown great improvement in the power unit department as well in 2020.
This also comes with the backdrop of the $145 million budget cap that has been placed on the big teams. In 2019, Red Bull spent in excess of $300 million on its F1 campaign. Honda had been hinting at a possible exit for over a year, but since the Red Bull cars powered by Honda engines had won 5 races in the last two seasons, many believed this would not be the case, even despite the pandemic.
Red Bull's Christian Horner has reiterated the commitment of the team towards F1, despite the setback and reiterated that both AlphaTauri and Red Bull have signed the Concorde agreement.
"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," he said.
"As a signatory to F1'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," he added.
AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost echoed Horner's sentiments. "We sincerely want to thank Honda for the fruitful cooperation, we really enjoyed every day we've been working together. It won't be easy to find an engine partner like Honda but, of course, we will start looking at all possibilities to find the best power unit solution from 2022 onwards," said the Austrian.