Honda, Circuit de Catalunya

Why Honda’s fourth F1 departure is different – and what it says about the sport

2020 F1 season

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It may be tempting to regard Honda’s fourth departure from Formula 1, announced this morning, as yet another example of a capricious car manufacturer coming and going as it pleases.

But this is not like Honda’s 1992 departure when they were flushed with success, the trophy cabinet groaning with championship and race silverware accumulated with McLaren and Williams. Nor is this the same as when they quit at the end of unsuccessful spells in 1968 and 2008.

The Japanese manufacturer did not have a smooth return to F1 five years ago with McLaren. But following its 2019 tie-up with Red Bull, Honda had reasons to feel positive about its F1 future. The partnership won three races last year, and another this year.

Most unexpectedly, Honda delivered the feel-good story of the 2020 season to date with Pierre Gasly’s extraordinary triumph for AlphaTauri at Monza.

“We are very happy with Gasly’s Monza win,” said Honda’s technical director Toyoharu Tanabe in Sochi last week. “It emphasised very much our passion. Japanese fans were very happy to see his win and his podium.” Today’s news puts the real-world value of that victory in a depressing context.

Honda, 1968
Honda canned its first F1 team in 1968…
Since F1 introduced its V6 hybrid turbo power unit rules in 2014, Honda is the only new manufacturer to have entered the sport. It is now leaving despite knowing the current technical rules will remain stable until 2025.

Significantly, Honda’s 427-word statement confirming their departure does not contain a single mention of ‘Covid’ or ‘Coronavirus’. They are not hiding behind the pandemic.

Instead they made it clear they are leaving F1 in order to plough development into green technologies. “Honda has decided to strive for the ‘realisation of carbon neutrality by 2050,'” it stated on Friday. “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.

“Toward this end, 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.

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Ayrton Senna, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 1992
…left again in 1992 after success with McLaren…
“As a part of this move, in April of this year, Honda created a new centre called 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 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.”

F1’s switch to V6 hybrid turbo engines in 2014 was supposed to court new engine manufacturers by offering them the chance to develop cutting-edge hybrid technologies in a racing environment. Now the only new manufacturer which came to the sport following the change is leaving, in order to pursue other technologies.

While F1 is locked into its current engine formula until 2025, discussions will surely now turn to whether those technologies should form part of its future engine rules.

Honda’s exit is a blow for F1, just weeks after its 10 teams confirmed they had signed up to the new Concorde Agreement keeping them in the sport. It will trim the engine manufacturer contingent to just three – a worryingly slim number.

Rubens Barrichello, Honda, Interlagos, 2008
…and last quit the sport in 2008
Honda is unique among the current four manufacturers in that it is only a power unit supplier, not a complete chassis builder. Therefore their exit will not immediately reduce F1’s stubbornly low car count of 20.

But it leaves a question mark over who will power Red Bull and AlphaTauri after next year. And it is likely to compromise the threat posed by the closest rivals to the dominant Mercedes.

Worst of all for F1 is the possibility that if one car manufacturer leaves, others may follow. After the 10th race of 2020, and in only the second season of their partnership, Red Bull-Honda are second in the constructors’ championship. Despite this promise, Honda has decided to can its Formula 1 programme.

That is a grim reflection of how little success in the sport means in the face of changing boardroom priorities.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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111 comments on “Why Honda’s fourth F1 departure is different – and what it says about the sport”

  1. Bit late for this discussion now. When Formula E launched I said on here that f1 should be looking to change the rules to lock down combustion capacity while allowing for unlimited full-electric or hydrogen-electric engines. F1 would have been using fully carbon neutral engines now and F1 would be at the front of the new economy instead of maintaining a nostalgic roar or a combustion engine era on which the sun is setting.

    1. Exactly. F1 mngt and team bosses are race lovers for sure, but not necessarily the sharpest tool in the set when it comes to intellect.

      1. The Green argument being true they would stay if they would have a shot at the championship. Current regulations made Mercedes so untouchable that the sport is not interesting any more. Is a two car championship that cost lots of money. And without a serious contender on the other Merc we all know HAM is winning another champ before even starting.

    2. In which universe is electric ready to be a F1 engine though? Have you watched Formula E? They can do 45 minutes max on a fraction of the power and speed that Formula 1 does.

      If you want F1 levels of performance from an EV, you would get 10 minute races, at best. It’s just not a thing that’s going to happen now.

      1. Probably not now, but if you allow EVs to race against ICEs and hybrids under certain regulations that allow to actually compete between them, like the 1.5T vs 3.0 atmospheric that was used in the past, you probably can attract some manufacturers and one of them could try to put millions and millions in development and you know F1 engineers, in few years you have batteries that can go to the moon and return (at the cost of 7 million/gram and made of a material that still not exist). Probably you can attract some emergent EV manufacturers too (there are hundreds now) that can be interesting to see as backmarkers. But the current (2021) situation is that you have Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari as motorists/constructors and McLaren, Aston and Red Bull as constructors. It sounds that Mercedes can be out too in a few years as a constructor, and maintain only as a motorist. The rest are the B and C teams of the first tree. The current formula has failed as attractor for big brand names, so they need to change something.

        1. *the first three (sorry)

        2. @esmiz nailed it for me with that historic comparison.

          We have manufacturer and satellite teams, and F1 vs “F1.5” anyway, it would have been brilliant to be watching the gap close, and inevitably swap, over the seasons as EV technology caught up.

          I don’t know how you incentivise it (perhaps it would happen somewhat organically) but Ferrari pushing to win with ICE whilst Alfa tried to win eco bragging rights in the midfield with a Ferrari electric motor would be a spectacle I’d be in for.

          But don’t FE have exclusive EV rights with the FiA?

        3. @esmiz the comparison with the 1.5l turbo and 3.0l normally aspirated engines shows an issue though, which is that it is, practically speaking, quite hard to balance that sort of formula – the 1.5l turbo engines were a superior package under those rules, for example.

          The attempts to set a Balance of Performance in the World Endurance Championship also shows a similar issue. It was rather difficult for the ACO to attempt to balance a couple of LMP1 cars, and the development freezes they imposed to try and make the system work also meant that, if the balance was out to begin with, the impacted teams were stuck with an uncompetitive car for the whole season.

          @gongtong yes, according to Agag, Formula E struck a deal with the FIA that means they have exclusive rights until 2039 – it’s why Agag has said that Formula 1 would need to come to a commercial agreement with Formula E, or even go through a complete merger, in order to run electric vehicles.

          1. But the 1.5T vs 3.0l was active during a lot of years, and was only the last ones when the Turbo package was superior. If I rememeber correctly there were many years without Turbo cars, althought it was allowed, and only started to work 2-3 years after Renault started developing the tech. I know that balancing perfomance is a hard thing, but this is not BOP at all, it is to expose 3 posible ways to make a F1 car and let the teams decide. If one of the three highlights over the other two, the teams can switch to this one and remain the only option on track, but with the others being allowed, to open the possibility that someone develops the other technology sufficiently to be competitive. I understand that it is a bit dreamy and utopian, but they are trying to try reverse grids… I don’t know what is worse.

            On the other hand, I didn’t know the exclusivity agreement within FE and FIA… I find it very bad from the FIA. But it shows one thing, Agag is the closest thing to Ecclestone around F1 right now. Watch out for that guy. Here we know him and the things he do and think are things that could have come out of the head of Ecclestone… in the good and in the bad.

          2. @esmiz in the case of the 1.5 litre forced induction versus 3.0 litre engines, in theory it was possible from 1966 through to 1988, but for a long time it wasn’t followed for a number of reasons – not least because it was rather ambiguous in the regulations what form of forced induction was allowed.

            The overlap between when the technology was first introduced, with Renault in 1977, and the point at which it became a leading technology was not long – teams were switching en-masse within a couple of years. You could argue that, by 1982, turbocharged engines had taken over – whilst Rosberg did win the championship with a DFV powered car that year, that was largely only because Ferrari lost both their drivers (the turbocharged 126C2 probably being the best car in the field that year). After 1982, turbocharged engines came to dominate the sport and normally aspirated engines were usually only used by the teams that basically couldn’t strike a deal for a turbo engine – there wasn’t a very long period of overlap between turbocharged engines being a potential option and becoming the dominant option.

            It highlights the issue that, whilst it’s a nice idea in practice, usually it doesn’t take long for one particular solution to present itself as the optimal design and there is usually pretty rapid technological convergence after that point.

      2. Axel Versloot
        2nd October 2020, 14:52

        It’s not (yet). But the Steves plan would allow engine manufacturers to try and develop a way for electric to be ready

      3. I don’t see this as a bad thing though. You could open up all the rules. Safety would be less of a concern with lower speeds. This would also have a real effect on innovation and road relevance. The last 30 years have been about getting around rules and not innovating. I’m getting to the point where I would rather watch them race soap box derby cars if it would mean the rules were again open. Honestly, I have to watch a race from the 70’s before I can really tell if they are slower than they are now and then don’t really care since they are always looking like they are on edge.

    3. F1 should free up the power unit rules that is what. If a manufacture choose electric… let them. if they chose ICE.. let them…V8 or V10? V4? Stipulate that the fuel must be at least X% from renewable sources or electric… and that should be enticing for different manufacturers.

      Remember.. an electric F1 is Formula-e. The will be heavy and chunky… Battery changes every 20 minutes.. until battery technology catches up…
      Once the cars go Electric stick a fork in F1.

    4. Fuel cell cars would be a more real ootion. For both f1 and the real world alltogether

    5. @machinesteve hydrogen comes with quite a few problems though that make it an unlikely choice as a fuel source.

      If you want to use liquid hydrogen, the problem is that the energy density of liquid hydrogen is only about a quarter of that of a comparable fossil fuel – it’s why a number of projects in the aviation sector did investigate substituting kerosene with hydrogen, but dropped it when it became apparent that the volume of fuel that would be required would make it impractical.

      You would require something in the order of roughly 300-320 litres of liquid hydrogen to have an equivalent amount of energy in liquid hydrogen as you have in conventional fuel. Even if you allow for potentially slightly higher efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, which is what I assume you are referring to when you say a “hydrogen-electric engine”, the volume of fuel that would be required would not make it particularly attractive idea (which would then be compounded by the issues with storing cryogenically cooled fuel).

      If you are using gaseous hydrogen, meanwhile, that then creates the issue of creating a sufficiently strong pressure vessel to contain high pressure hydrogen – which, in turn, creates challenges with safety, weight and volume.

      To illustrate some of those issues, there is a concept for a hydrogen powered fuel cell prototype car to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a few years time (the H24 project), which intends to use gaseous hydrogen at 700 bar to fuel the car. However, that car currently weighs in at about 1.4 tonnes – making it about 500kg heavier than the LMP3 car it is based on – and the current performance target is only to be roughly on the pace of a GT3 car.

      Even if they do, as they are hoping to, eventually cut the weight by about 150kg, that does leave you with a car that’s still quite heavy, whilst still having more modest performance than you seem to be targeting.

  2. What this actually shows is that freezing engine development is stupid. plain and simple. Car companies HAVE the money. they want to show off their newest cutting-edge engine, not spend a still sizeable chunk of cash to parade around the same old piece of kit, while also being Performance-locked. my opinion.

    1. *freezing development and stiffling Innovation by completely Locking in the formula

    2. F1 isnt the only sport which has frozen development due to Covid, even MotoGP has simlar restrictions in place. Over there Honda once again is in world of pain with unridable engine and chasis which has bitten their riders badly(Marquez, Crutchlow, Bradl and Nakagami all injured to varying levels).

  3. HG Wells famously wrote in 1945 that “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”
    This line addresses the fact that the world is constantly changing, requiring those who do not wish to be left behind to change along with it.

    I think Honda made a good choice.

    Go hydrogen or electric.

  4. I dunno, the sport has been in the thrall of the car manufacturers at the detriment of the sport. The whole grid were racing Ford DFVs for 15 years. No one saw any reason to be ‘cutting edge’ then as the budgets didn’t allow. Its never that simplistic but apart from a few naysayers who I see on here a lot but I never see at a race, everyone would like a return to ICE.

    Maybe it needs to go more Indy and more spec. I love to see the tech developments but I love to see the best drivers and great racing more and I love the noise of a v12. I and other are drifting to other forms of motorsport for this but f1 is the pinnacle and where the best of the best are.

    Maybe they should change Formula E to Formula 1E and have Formula 1-ICE alongside it, same track, same weekend. Then the E fans can go and save the planet and the rest of us can watch and HEAR our preference.

    1. everyone would like a return to ICE

      A rather Trumpian quote, you thinking something isn’t the same as it being true. There are more than a few naysayers on going backwards with the technology, myself included, and contrary to your made up facts I do attend races.

      f1 is the pinnacle and where the best of the best are

      This literally contradicts what you’ve said above – if it’s the best of the best how can it possibly go back to old, slow and redundant technology. You may personally like the SOUND of inefficiency but it isn’t progress.

      1. Old ICE is faster.

        1. A bit like stating that ‘Vanilla ICE is a better rapper’, @markwebber.
          I doubt that ‘Old ICE’ is faster based on the same fuel flow restrictions.

        2. Just me and you then Mark Webber….and my friends who go racing and the hundreds on the campsites I’ve spoken to. That’s all.

          I appreciate this is the internet and unless I give a citation anything you say gets jumped on but I’m genuinely astounded people are happy the roar of an ICE is gone. Its the DNA of the sport as much as tech advances are. Grand prix racing has often gone back to go forward, superchargers, turbo’s ground effect, double diffusers, fan car..and so on.

          People get confused by what is ACTUAL progress in f1, most big innovations are outlawed. Hybrid was brought in as a sop to the manufacturers and it seems their acolytes lap it up. Not all of us doff our cap though.

          1. I agree Tony. I would happily take F1 with V10s and only Ferrari interested in making engines, over an electric F1. This is entertainment after all. I look forward to owning an electric car, but I watch F1 for the entertainment

          2. I’ll never forget when Vettel said “bring back the V12s”, and Croft commented that a huge cheer has gone up from fans around the world. Says it all to be honest

          3. tony mansell, there is something rather ironic in an individual who has been blasting others for being archaic old fossils for not backing reverse races then being extremely conservative and old fashioned when it comes to the design of the cars – after all, V12 engines haven’t been used in F1 since 1995, and even Ferrari thought they were rubbish by then (they’d been trying to get rid of them for about 5 years, but internal politics meant they weren’t allowed to replace it).

        3. Old Spice is the best.

    2. You are the problem Tony.

      F1 should be the peak of engineering innovation first and foremost. Running spec v12s isn’t that I’m afraid, however much we like the sound.

      Putting the planet aside for one moment, you need to still acknowledge that’s where innovation will be in the next 20 years, and as such, that’s where F1 should be.

      1. No I don’t acknowledge it. You can if you like but my comment above clarifies my position and confuses yours

    3. I’m with tony here.
      First the naysayers tell F1 should be the cutting edge of new technologies. Then they demand a show.

      It can’t be both. WEC tried: diesel, hybrid… where is it now? And F1 goes completely the WEC route. F1 is a sport and there is no sport that is about something “modern” and “future”. It’s all about historic or maybe you would call it ancient activities.

      Consider it as the same thing as a horse racing. And btw horse racing is much less “ethic” than some 20 cars running on fossil fuel, let alone “road relevant”.

      Do not get me wrong, I’m completely in support for the more responsible use of natural resources, with all the transport for everyday use becoming carbon-free ASAP, etc. But ICE racing should remain as something rare, luxurious, historic (or call it ancient) and interesting show.

      1. WEC made the mistake of not keeping up with technology. It tried limiting the pace of change and experimenting with EoT (another way of saying BoP) to keep cost down and manufacturers in the sport. The result? Lost most of the manufacturers anyway; LMP1 ended up still being too expensive, but also gave no value in development.

        That’s why WEC is having to devise another top-level class – which has taken a lot of doing, because it kept chopping and changing to try to maximise manufacturer entries.

        I fear F1 is similarly in the process of being caught in between a fast-moving pace of development, and the much slower ingress of money.

  5. Significantly, Honda’s 427-word statement confirming their departure does not contain a single mention of ‘Covid’ or ‘Coronavirus’. They are not hiding behind the pandemic.

    How do you know, tho? they can use the “going green” PR speech to avoid admitting COVID hit hard for everyone, specially extraordinary expenses like F1. Honda has spent tons of money and only got bad press during the McLaren years and a handful of wins in a car that has Aston Martin as title sponsor… they are working well with RBR and Alpha Tauri but how much is that making sense, money wise?

    Yes, the technology isn’t going forward, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not like a decision was made last week, they knew full well the regs were not going to change…

    Ross Brawn said in the F1 podcast that Honda wasn’t considering staying on after 2008 in such an expensive sport while laying off thousands of people and I read somewhere that Honda suffered a net loss close to 650 million euros during the first trimester, so…

    1. Quite so, a handy excuse to avoid the obvious one, needing to avoid over emphasising a tricky financial situation.

    2. @fer-no65 Honda did indeed make a $765 million loss in the first quarter of 2020, and that came on the back of sharply declining profits in 2019.

      Even though they are expecting some recovery later this year, they’re still in fairly poor financial shape and had already been outlining plans for major job cuts. They’re already shutting down their UK division, with 3,500 jobs going there, and it seems there are smaller job cuts being made at a number of Honda’s other factories around the world.

      They had also announced in 2019 that they would be making some fairly significant changes – they’re planning to reduce the number of models of car they produce by two thirds to cut costs, and they are partnering with General Motors to jointly research and develop both new engines and new electric vehicles.
      They also announced at the start of September 2020 that they were going to develop two new electric vehicles on a common platform with General Motors, and they are actively looking at ways to expand that alliance in order to save on development costs and to make their cars cheaper to produce by standardising more parts.

      It’s why there are some individuals connected to Honda that are suggesting that, with Honda already being under pressure in 2019 to cut costs and then taking an even bigger financial hit than expected this year – that financial loss was about 25% higher than originally expected, and didn’t even take the full impact of the virus into consideration – the “going green” PR speech is an oblique way of referencing Honda’s financial problems and the larger than expected loss they made earlier this year due to covid.

    3. @fer-no65 There was going to be a recession soon whether the pandemic happened or not; all COVID-19 did was determine the exact moment, and intensify the depth of it. However, Honda can’t afford to say that’s a contributing factor in case it is seen as Honda repeating 2008.

      That said, the point of Honda’s involvement in F1 was always to develop engineers. Government regulations have moved more and more away from what F1 was doing, making Honda more and more distinctly vulnerable to a change of opinion from the board.

  6. I find it strange that they really push the eco-friendliness as the deciding factor. Yet they still provide engines for indycar, which have no hybrid systems or anything like that and are likely to be far more damaging to the environment?

    Or is it because indycar engines are cheap, and america is a big market for them…

    1. Also Super GT and Super Formula. And presumably MotoGP and others.
      And they all have well controlled engine regs that allow everyone a competitive chance to win without blowing the budget.
      What good is it throwing buckets of money at something knowing you have a snowballs chance of success? Not only will you go broke, but you still won’t look good.

    2. Good point @minnis, I don’t think it has anything to do with the technology or green, it’s that Honda chose the worst possible way to do F1. They have massive costs, much less exposure than a team, no prize money, and no sponsorship. It’s lose, lose, lose.

      Mercedes do F1 for free and take an enormous marketing benefit, and the other teams must all get more out of it as well.

    3. IndyCar is going to introduce hybrid power units in a couple of years though – development has already started on those new regulations.

      I believe that the SuperGT and SuperFormula series are also planning to introduce hybrid cars too.

      1. Honda and Toyota both ran hybrids in SGT.
        They were dropped due to costs and competitive issues.

        Whatever one series does, the other will do – they run the same engine. That’s how they get they financial value out of those engine investments.

        1. S, the GT500 category does not use hybrid power units, but the GT300 category does still permit hybrid drive cars and Toyota does still use a hybrid powered car – they’ve converted a Prius to GT300 specification.

          They have indicated that, although they are not following DTM in introducing hybrid power units for the GT500 category, it is something which is still under consideration for the longer term.

          1. @anontoyot rv8
            Honda DID use a hybrid system in the GT500 NSX during 2014/2015. It was a 60kw system that, for competitive reasons, was limited to only 21kw. As such, Honda abandoned it as being too expensive and not worth the investment and hybrid was subsequently written out of the regulations.
            And both Honda and Toyota have dropped their hybrid systems in GT300 – Honda dropping the CR-Z hybrid in 2015, and the apr Prius switching from the 3.4L RV8K hybrid to the Lexus 5.4L NA V8 last year.

            As for DTM – their plans may be abandoned anyway. With only one Class 1 manufacturer left, they will likely revert to being a GT3 based category.

    4. I think those could be factors @minnis, but if Honda are looking at carbon neutrality in general then they are probably also looking at the carbon footprint of traveling to races all over the world. In IndyCar the races are mostly confined to North America, cutting down on cargo shipments via air. They can use more efficient transportation methods to ship equipment from race to race or to team headquarters and achieve a better carbon footprint. I think in this regard, being a global sport plays a detrimental role in trying to achieve carbon neutrality.

    5. @minnis Honda’s in those series for marketing; its presence in F1 was primarily to develop engineers. So it’s 50/50 whether those other programmes will be canned soon, or whether they’ll continue.

      1. This F1 is too expensive to not enter for R&D value. The current engines don’t really do much in this regard. Moreso with FE exclusitivity to full electric engines till 2039 (so dodgy).

    6. They stay because these series are far cheaper than F1 to produce engines for.

  7. If battery EV is locked because of Formula E exclusivity then why not Hydrogen EV. Sure they can’t be worse than current large and heavy hybrids. Freeze current PU for as long as necessary to develop HEVs to required level.

  8. There’s the pinnacle of modern racing and automotive tech.
    There’s the tried and proven simple, cheap, loud and noisy racing tech.
    Then there’s F1 – in the middle, not knowing what it wants or which direction to take.

    That’s why it’s not pleasing anyone.
    Pick one and do it properly. Best and most relevant tech that manufacturers can come up with (within an agreed budget) or simply the best open-wheel racing cars that designers can make in a well controlled sporting environment.

    1. Really good point. Its pulling the sport apart, certainly the fans. Go electric and i’ll go Indy. Go ICE and the hand wringers have won. Lets see how many turn up to races then

    2. This!! The sport needs to make a decision, and with formula e and hybrids in the world sportscars/Le Man already, F1 just needs to be the worlds fastest single seater motor racing series. F1 was never about road car and manufacturers development. That’s what sportcars is. And the green push should just be down to Formula E now. F1 was about the fastest drivers driving the fastest open wheel cars in the world. The regs need to be changed so that it is more affordable (and if that means ICE, then so be it) and so that the field are closer together. The ICE isnt going anywhere yet, not for a long time, maybe decades (and for the Air industry it will be even longer) so it is time to suck it up and move the series back to a position where it used to be. The modern cars are way too big, too heavy and too expensive anyway. Who cares if we lose a lot of manufacturers, the sport will go back to being garagista’s, like the Williams, Tyrrells and Jordans of this world, if the sport has a more realistic financial entry level.

  9. For a very successful organization Honda always seem to be very unsure of themselves and their recent trend being exit just a few moments before a certain victory.
    The FIA imposed hybrid era was stubbornly insisted upon by the great Todt even when many experts had said it will be expensive and not achieve the goals they set out for it.
    Back to Honda, I don’t know if we can every take their commitment seriously if they ever decide to show up again.

    1. They never said they’d commit to staying forever.

    2. Todt didn’t impose the hybrid area, you are wrong, the engine manufacturers wanted it

  10. F1 was wrong going into too complicated hybrid that only give too much weight and made it far from road relevance. The biofuel dream is just a gimmick that has no clear target either. Hoping to be the leader in non fossil fuel while limiting 6% organic component and aiming for 10% in 2022-2027 is laughable.

    F1 should bring back pure ICE and enjoy screaming engine while they can. That’s a better DNA preservation argument.

    1. The biofuel dream

      @ruliemaulana, others and I clarified this earlier: F1 doesn’t want to go biofuel (other than some short term mix-in) and are focussing on synthetic fuels from green sources (e.g. Solar Fuel).

      Strongly suggest you look up synthetic fuels; scientists already have a working model extracting CO2 from the atmosphere to produce synthetic fuels.

      1. @coldfly and I’ll clarified that it still a dream. We knew scientist do research about uploading consciousness to the could too but if the major industries has not catch up to it, it means it still economically not feasible in the near term.

        F1 would not willing to alienate fossil fuel industries. They are all their major sponsor.

    2. That will last 5 years and then they’ll go away.

      We all love screaming V12s, but F1 is about technological development and engineering expertise. As soon as you pine for the past you are no longer looking to the future. F1 should always be about the latter.

      1. No its not, its about 20 of best drivers in the world racing round a track. Tech is second and always will be. The trouble with F1 is too much tech, too many engineers and too many people like your good self who believe that’s all its about now. Staggering misstep.

        1. its about 20 of best drivers in the world racing round a track.

          The fallacy of fans who think F1 is only a Driver’s Championship.
          F1 is a team sport first and foremost. And if you really want to go back to the DNA of F1 then the focus should be more on the team and less the individual chauffeurs.

          1. Surely each fan has the right to enjoy F1 as they like, no? That goes for any cover-all statement from posters declaring what a true fan or what true F1 should be or is, of course.

            I would be interested to see how many if any fans were to stop watching F1 if it were vastly simplified to say a $40 million NA ICE formula with simple wing aero and a fair bit of ground effect though, and likewise for the series going full electric.

            Another interesting scenario: how would F1 change if the constructor’s championship was cancelled – remember, talk of F1 DNA should account for the WCC only starting almost a decade into f1-, with only the WDC on the table and combined points deciding yearly prize money (yes, basically an unofficial WCC)?

      2. 5 glorious years are better than living a path that had no future.

        1. @ruliemaulana

          Well said sir.

          The irony with these company acolytes spouting about tech and the future is that electric is a technological dead end. Its just the next least worse thing to the environment than ICE. The ONLY reason manufacturers are going electric is because they face billions is fines if they do not go electric and the ONLY reason f1 has gone hybrid is because the manufacturers demanded it or they’d quit. As if 20 cars going hybrid does anything positive to the environment. Our sport killed because govts are fining people who make SUV’s. Makes me angry and yet these so called f1 fans are lapping it up and spouting the same nonsense. The manufacturers must be laughing their arrsses off

          1. Jose Lopes da Silva
            2nd October 2020, 14:59

            “Our sport killed because govts are fining people who make SUV’s. Makes me angry”

            Says it all, yeah.

      3. I thought it is about fastest drivers and fastest cars going around in circles to find out who is the best? When was this nonsense about development started ? Then cancel drivers championship and cancel drivers cause they mean nothing if F1 is all about “development”. Ah yeah we have that since 2014 already….

    3. @ruliemaulana F1 already has biofuels.

      1. @alianora-la-canta yes, I said it too. I also said the target is laughable.

        1. @ruliemaulana Lack of interest even at the time of introduction implies that a target of 100% second-stage biofuel would not help.

  11. This decision makes no sense at all. Electric vehicles and hydrogen technology were already in the mind of all car makers in 2014. Why did they bother making a F1 engine, competing a few years, spending millions in engine development to leave in the end with no championship to their name now that the engines are being frozen and costs are going down.
    All this talk about F1 being too expensive, but to me it looks like car manufacturers have cash to burn and don’t mind spending it in a useless way.

    1. It is the Honda way.

    2. W.m. Bravenboer
      3rd October 2020, 10:44

      There is a major crisis currently, lots of car manufacturers are in trouble, honda is closing factories, and pulling out of markets. For instance several japanese firms are leaving the european market altogether. Stand alone manufacturers will not survive, so honda is looking for partners, cutting costs and investing in new technologies. This was a decision of the board, so there is no choice.
      Honda was on its way out when rb came knocking, so they invested in the engines, with succes, but in the end it is simply economics. They already committed for 2021, with warning, so rb have time.
      Renault is also not staying forever, perhaps the solution is a non-branded standard engine, based on the current mercedes engine, that every team can buy?

    3. @paeschli In 2014, it was thought ICE had another 30 years before getting banned – an entire generation of engineers would need training in the technology, and to enhance it. 6 years later, and some places are 10 years away from not only banning ICE engines (F1’s pre-2014 technology), but non-plug-in-hybrid (which is what F1 went to in 2014).

      The final kicker is that the recession having arrived now, we’ve probably seen the last phase of major purchases by the older buyers that takes the environment into relatively low consideration. By the time the world is out of recession again, the majority of people will be of generations that are significantly less likely to buy any car at all, much less likely to be able to buy new (both thanks to economic and job instability) and those who can afford new cars will be of a generation that considers the environment very important. Said recession only happened this year…

      Furthermore, this is the generation that went away from F1 (the generation that’s come back to it typically won’t be able to afford a new car for another 10-15 years; plenty of time to return to F1 in the interim if that makes sense to do!).

      The fact the Concorde Agreement allows more organised leavetakings than the ad hoc arrangements of yesteryear was the final straw. Honda did not want to repeat the scenario where they had to pay nine-figure sums to the teams they were leaving, and being able to give this sort of notice prevents that.

      1. @alianora-la-canta I hope the other manufacturers don’t mind using ICE until 2039 then, because Formula E has an exclusive license for electric open wheel facing until then.

        1. @paeschli Or that plug-in-hybrid/hydrogen/experimental fuels become permitted in F1.

  12. The author forgot to mention that it is actually the fifth departure out of F1. In 1999 they

    1. -wasn’t finished yet-
      They pulled the plug on the project after Harvey Postlethwaite died.

      1. They entered as an engine supplier with BAR, instead as a full fledged constructor, so no, they didn’t leave then. They entered F1 again.

  13. Here is what happens when you let a car company run the sport. Mercedes i killing F1 just like it did with the FIA GT back in late ’90 and DTM more recently.

    1. Wasn’t it Renault and Ferrari that first called for a new engine formula back in 2011 or something?

      1. With Renault being the most vocal.

      2. Definitely not Ferrari, Mecedes and Renault pushed for the new Hybrid formula.

      3. @john-h it was quite a bit earlier than that – Renault submitted their technical paper, which basically formed the core of the current regulation package, to the FIA in 2007.

        Bio’s comments about “Mercedes is killing F1 just like it did with the FIA GT back in late ’90 and DTM more recently” are also rather questionable. I would say that, if any party should be blamed for the demise of that series, it should really be Porsche given they were the ones who first promoted the use of “homologation specials” that caused the problems with cost inflation in the first place.

        As for DTM, that has been in considerable doubt for several years due to a weak grid and rising costs. We knew Audi was on its way out, given VW are pulling out of all combustion engined motorsport series, and the sport has been struggling with cost inflation issues for years now.

        I would argue the real problem was the introduction of the Class One regulations and the drive to merge DTM with the SuperGT series. It resulted in a series that became significantly more expensive to run and operate, but it largely failed to attract the Japanese manufacturers to DTM – which had been one of their objectives – and the ambitious plans for a USA DTM series just sapped funding from the organisation as those plans came to nothing.

      4. They wanted to attract new manufacturers and even let Audi have a say in the hybrid regulations in the hope of having them enter the championship. Unfortunately they didn’t.

  14. I honestly am not convinced by this article, as it provides no reason whatsoever.
    THis retirement seems to be a bad ponderated decision, based on short term evaluations. They are not winning, can’t see that happen in a short period of time, hence they quit.
    Pretty much what happened in 2009.
    As I stated in the other article, it would be impossible to trust any Honda’s commitment in the future.

    1. Lots of layoff’s so this is a nice save face for Honda.

  15. I think Formula One seriously needs to consider opening tenders for some kind of ‘standard’ customer power unit can is developed by independent, non-manufacturer-affiliated power unit developers (AER, Gibson / Zytek, Cosworth, Ilmor, Judd, etc ??) that teams can bolt into the back of their cars, or [with some regulatory concessions?] use as a basis to develop themselves as a package in-house.

    Kind of like the TOCA engine in BTCC.

    Otherwise we’ll end up like at times in the 60’s and 70’s when it was Ferrari vs a grid of Ford DFVs.

  16. I think this one was easier for them: they pretty much had their arm twisted by Ron to come back based on the hubris of 1988-1992 while conveniently forgetting their 2000-2008 performance (tempted back in by BAT’s $$$).

    Things may have been different if Red Bull had dominated this year, but the realisation that Mercedes are steam rolling everything until God knows when probably allowed practicalities & rational thought to overcome any ideas of using F1 as a platform (for what exactly I don’t know).

  17. Is Honda leaving Indycar as well?

      1. Can we talk about this, @oni, @liko41, because this is a very interesting point. Why are they not leaving Indycar?

        1. Indy Engines are from the US arm of Honda racing. F1 is Honda Japan.

  18. Now Ross Brawn will buy the power units, improve it a little, put it on a car and win WDC and WCC in 2022…

    Jokes aside… Formula 1 can still win the electric game, if it wants to. Formula E is interesting, but in my opinion, it is too generalist. They are races for people who don’t like races. Which doesn’t mean that those of us who like them can’t enjoy them, but the cars are slow (in comparison), and the circuits, stupid. It would be nice if F1 managed to involve some big brands and other emerging ones to design competition electric motors and with the kind of commitment that F1 promotes, the development of these types of motors can be brutal in just a few years.
    Another option would be to stick with combustion engines and abandon the idea of ​​big brands getting involved. There was a time like this and it wasn’t bad. But it is not the same to get to that from something less advanced, than to go back to something less advanced. I doubt that with this formula, F1 would remain for a long time as the superior category, surely another category would replace it. It doesn’t have to be bad at all, but I would prefer the first option. Also, I think it has more to do with the roots, and what Formula 1 really is: Make the fastest car in the world and demonstrate it on the track.

    1. You mean find a loophole to make it a 3 liter turbo engine.

  19. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    2nd October 2020, 12:22

    I’m pretty devastated. The Honda powered BAR team was my first main favourite when I started watching, supported them through the rough Honda branded years and was hurt to see them leave in 08. Watching them do it again, when once again they’re in a position of relative strength, is just unbelievable. It also shows how critical it is F1 attracts new engine manufacturers and new teams as now we’re down to just three. The years of Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Cosworth, all in one season are long gone.

    I don’t know where this leaves Red Bull. The article is right, for the next few years at least Mercedes has no challenger anymore, now Red Bull need a new engine, Ferrari’s is hobbled and Renault’s isn’t quite there. I’d say there’s a reasonably strong possibility of Red Bull walking away, and us losing not just an engine but two teams.

    I will continue watching F1 but I have to admit this will lower my affection for it.

  20. Pretty sure plenty of manufacturers are lining up to try their hand at the pinnacle of motorsport that is F1…………

  21. One day the world will wake up to the fallacy of CAGW and will wonder why ICE hybrids were so casually tossed aside. Electric is impractical for travelling distances. Hydrogen currently comes from fossil fuels, is horribly dangerous to store and has a lower power potential. Hybrids are perfect for city driving on battery alone so we don’t shorten the lives of shoppers on the high street, swapping to high energy density fuels for long distance.

    TOCA/BTCC offers the model for a workable solution in the form of the option of their complete engine using a standard turbocharger, or a manufacturer engine using the same turbocharger and the same boost limits. A TOCA engined car is leading the BTCC championship, albeit with the significant advantage of Ash Sutton behind the wheel ;-)

    In F1 this would translate to teams having the option of a standardised ICE core with standardised hybrid add-ons. Companies like Ferrari who value using their own ICE, could do just that, but they have to use the same hybrid package.

  22. The rules in FE limit the speed of development. We can’t compare the potential electrification of F1 with FE.

    As with anything, you give it to F1 engineers and they make it incredible. So many technologies on road cars came from F1. They used to anyway. Things designed to make F1 go faster made road cars more efficient an safer.

    F1 is supposed to be pioneering. They should be ahead of the curve on EVs and making EV technology better whilst still going faster than ever before.

    One of the biggest problems with EVs at the moment is energy storage… Give that challenge to F1’s best brains. They will solve it.

    It’s time to abandon fossil fuels. It’s time to move forward. F1 needs to lead it or be left behind and become an extinct dinosaur. Lack of interest from the world’s biggest car manufacturers is testament to that. They’d be queuing to show they can do the best job of making F1 power units if they weren’t using obselete technology.

  23. In 2014, the number of PU-suppliers was three, though, and F1 survived.
    Furthermore, is 20 as the number of cars on the grid really a ‘stubbornly low’ number? 20 is perfectly fine overall and has been the figure in this regard for more than a handful of times before, not only in the recent past.
    In a scenario of Red Bull leaving F1 altogether, one way to keep the number of cars on the grid at 20 is that four teams (If I calculated correctly) would have three instead of two.

  24. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    2nd October 2020, 13:14

    This is usually about the time of the year when Japan would host the Suzuka GP. Could that have affected the decision?

    1. @freelittlebirds Yes. Along with the likelihood that conduct from other countries helped make it impossible to host the race.

  25. Oh well, F1 always talkes about making the sport safer.
    Maybe slowing speeds down
    Using Ferrari engines?

  26. C ya. Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya. Bring back the cosworth

  27. Mark in Florida
    2nd October 2020, 16:01

    I think Honda saw the writing on the wall. Mercs dominance is so complete no amount of work that Honda could do would make their engine a world beater. Mclaren led them down a development dead end with that Size 0 concept. Then they had to redesign the turbo to try and catch up. Honda has been behind this whole time when it comes to motors. Ironically they had I believe two years to observe Mercs engine at work with its split turbo setup but opted to use a conventional arrangement instead. They have no one to blame but themselves. It’s a shame that overly complicated engine rules are killing the sport. Eventually Renault will quit, then Merc will bow out. What will they do then? Someone like Cosworth or Judd will have to step in. I guess the saying what is old now becomes new may, may apply at some point. I hope not Liberty needs to be proactive on this and wake up. Indy Car has great competition without all the bells and whistles that F1 thinks it needs. F1 needs a reality check on what is important going into the future.

  28. The partnership won three races last year, and another this year.

    They won two this year. Everyone’s forgetting Monza?

  29. José Lopes da Silva
    2nd October 2020, 23:10

    F1 is losing world social relevance since 2000. In the Golden Era, one could dream it would be almost at par with football.
    The ruling heads of the business have been short thinking term for too long. Ecclestone included, since he gave the business to CVC.
    We were here in 1996 discussing turbulence and then the end of V10 and in 2015 everyone was concerned about a drop in TV shares.
    Eventually, there have to be consequences. Yes, it’s the pandemic. We need to get back to 2009. Yes, governments are fining people who make SUV’s, and rightfully so. It was about time to charge SUV’s. You don’t need to ride a tank to live. Yes, worst things will happen and the ide of blocking new teams will go away soon.
    FIA should nationalize the sport and rule it like FIFA rules football (if it was possible).

  30. The question the FIA must consider is how soon will political and economic pressure from customers force Mercedes and Renault to stop producing carbon fueled engines. Within 5 years it could be the case that Ferrari, maybe, the only F1 PU manufacturer, unless F1 heads off to a different power source.

    And if my figures are right, then the battery weight required for cars to be at present day performance for a 300 km race, is about 2,000 kg. That’s assuming Musk is correct about making 400 Wh/kg batteries in 3 years time. At present the Tesla Model 3 batteries are ~260 Wh/kg. Petrol is 9.1 kWh/ltr

  31. I think F1 should start looking for a single ICE supplier and move the focus onto a much freed up hybrid technology development for the teams and manufacturers to put their resources and branding into. Preferably, they should look into having very few technical limitations to spark the interest of those that are already developing different kinds of systems, so no one is excluded by default. Something like a maximum/minimum weight and volume of the energy storage and a limit on momentaneous deployment-kW should suffice. Let them harvest as much as they can and want to, and use that energy whenever and however they see suit them. It would be up to teams and manufacturers to come up with the most efficient way of solving the problem of racing with those limitations, under a budget cap already in place as well. As an added bonus, this should result in technologies relevant and useful outside of racing too.

    My thinking is that governments around the globe, in about 5-10 years or so, probably will realize it is not actually sustainable to fully electrify ALL road traffic as is currently the trend. Some yes, but not all. The enormous volume of batteries that it would require, and the electricity production to charge them in fully sustainable ways everywhere does not seem to be feasible. Thus, they will start pushing for other means of obtaining emissions-neutral transportation and car manufacturers will adapt to that. For me, the logical step would be renewable fuels (such as ethanol just to mention one example) running further improved efficient internal combustion engines in combination with electric hybrid technology that can make use of regenerated energy in different ways. Hybrid cars can have much smaller batteries, reducing the environmental impact from manufacturing and maintaining those, and reducing vehicle weight further improving overall efficiency over pure EV’s. I think it is F1’s chance to stay at the forefront as pure EV is already too late (and accounted for by Formula E anyway). Hydrogen is another possible future, but it is basically just electric drive with hydrogen used to generate the power and so it pretty much falls under Formula E too. F1 should stay hybrid, and move the focus away from the ICE part of the package.

    1. Seems like a sensible approach. Let the engine manufacturers develop what they have got in the best way possible.

      F1 cannot just go backwards to the ICE. Then it cannot go to all electric owing to the battery problems and the fact that FE exists. So surely the answer must lie in developing hybrids so that they can become cheaper, lighter and more efficient.

  32. I suppose this is what happens when you allow one team to dominate a sport for 7 years in a row in a way never seen before.

    Ferrari were only dominant for 5 years during their era, RBR for 1.5 season in their era.

    Mercedes clear best car 7 straight years in a row. To be 8 next year.

    I think Red Bull ends up pulling one or both teams out of F1.

    Maybe Red Bull just keep the RBR presence in F1 for marketing, where it has a similar level of competitiveness of Alpha Tauri right now.

    Basically RBR have to put all their eggs in the Renault basket which I don’t think they’ll be prepared to commit to. Renault’s future in the sport is also uncertain.

    F1 got what it deserved by allowing Mercedes dictate to them.

  33. I’ve said for years F1 should go to a stock engine if its insistant in these hybrid things.

    Its just an r&d money pit that has no road relevance anyway as the road is going full electric.

    F1 needs to go electric or hydrogen if it wants to remain relevant, or it could just forget that and just focus on being a sport and give the fans what they want. V12s!!

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      5th October 2020, 7:42

      No kid under-25 knows what’s a V12.

      And they don’t care.

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