In Depth

Why everyone’s talking about Honda leaving F1 in 2021

Japanese auto giant shifts its business focus to pursue ‘carbon neutrality by 2050’

In a major change of business direction the Honda Motor Company has announced it will depart Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season to shift its focus towards “environmental initiatives” and accelerate its goal of achieving “carbon neutrality by 2050”.

The Japanese auto giant’s withdrawal from the motorsport means that F1 teams Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri will be looking for a new power unit supplier. 

After returning to the F1 championship with McLaren in 2015, Honda switched to Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso (who were renamed AlphaTauri) in 2018 before adding Red Bull as a works team the following year. 

Described as a “shock announcement” by Formula1.com, Honda’s two-and-a-half-year partnership with the Red Bull family has achieved five race victories and 15 podiums so far.

What happened? 

In explaining its reasons for leaving F1, Honda has cited environmental initiatives as one of the “top priorities” for the company and has made the decision to strive for the “realisation of carbon neutrality by 2050”.

In a statement Takahiro Hachigo, CEO of Honda Motor Company, said: “We see the automobile industry is undergoing a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation. It has been a while since we started communicating Honda’s intention to focus on the creation of new mobility products and new value for the future.  

“To this end, our current goal of electrifying two-thirds of our global automobile unit sales in 2030 will become a checkpoint we must pass before we get to the 2050 goal, and therefore we must further accelerate the introduction of our carbon-free technologies. 

“To realise our goals, we will focus on strengthening our research and development in the areas of future power unit and energy technologies.”

What happens next?

Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s search for a new power unit supplier comes just a few years after splitting from Renault. Despite Honda’s decision the teams “remain committed” to F1, Autosport reports. 

While admitting he was “disappointed”, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner understands how “difficult it has been for Honda to reach the decision”.

Horner added: “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. 

“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.

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

“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.”

Max Verstappen has won four races in the Red Bull-Honda era, including their first at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix (pictured above). He’s also secured 13 podiums in just 31 race starts. 

Pierre Gasly’s victory at this year’s Italian GP for AlphaTauri saw Honda become the only power unit manufacturer to win with two different teams since the start of F1’s hybrid era in 2014.

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