Japan’s Honda Motor will end its participation as an engine supplier in the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2021 season to focus on zero-emission technology, it said on Friday.
The decision was made at the end of September and the company does not intend to return to F1, Chief Executive Takahiro Hachigo said in an online news conference.
“This is not a result of the coronavirus pandemic but because of our longer-term carbon-free goal,” he said.
Like other automakers, Honda is rushing to build new-energy vehicles in an industry shift that Hachigo on Friday described as “once in a century”. That race is accelerating amid the coronavirus outbreak as carmakers review production plans to capture market share with new models including low or zero-emission vehicles.
Honda, which returned to F1 in 2015 in partnership with the Red Bull Racing team, said it will divert the resources it used to build F1 engines towards efforts to accelerate development of zero-emission technologies such as fuel cells and batteries.
“We understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision. We understand and respect the reasoning behind this,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said in a statement.
Honda is launching its first mass-produced all-battery car this month – the Honda e – and has announced plans for two thirds of the company’s output to be new-energy vehicles by 2030.
Domestic rival Toyota Motor Corp last week said it expects annual sales of electric vehicles to reach 5.5 million in 2025, five years earlier than initially planned.
Red Bull respect engine supplier Honda’s decision to leave Formula One at the end of 2021 and are well equipped to deal with the ‘obvious challenges’ presented by the departure, team boss Christian Horner said on Friday.
Honda said in a statement it wanted to focus its research and development resources on energy technologies including for fuel cells and battery electric vehicles.
The Japanese carmaker supplies two Red Bull owned F1 teams — Red Bull Racing and Italy-based AlphaTauri (previously Toro Rosso).
Both teams have been grand prix winners this season, making Honda the only engine supplier to have won with two different teams in the V6 turbo hybrid era that started in 2014 and that has been dominated by Mercedes.
“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,” said Horner in a statement.
“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.”
Honda’s departure will leave only Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault as Formula One engine makers.
Horner said Red Bull, whose main driver is highly-rated Dutch 23-year-old Max Verstappen, would evaluate their options as a group.
Red Bull won four constructors’ titles in a row with Renault from 2010-13 but the relationship with the French manufacturer soured in the V6 era, with the team branding the engines as Tag Heuer for a period.
Both Red Bull-owned teams have used Ferrari units previously, but the Italian manufacturer’s power unit has lost performance this season.
Mercedes already supply Racing Point and Williams as well as their own factory team and are due to provide engines to McLaren, currently with Renault, next year.
“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,” said Horner.
He said Red Bull remained committed to the sport in the long term, having recently signed a new commercial agreement for the next five years.