- Deep in thought for now. Photo Credit:Crash.Net

What Honda's departure means for Formula 1

How Formula 1's future could be in danger after yesterday's shock news

31w ago

Yesterday's news that Honda would leave Formula 1 after 2021 came as a huge shock to many fans for a manufacturer who took two wins with their two wins this season with Red Bull and Alpha Tauri.

It's not the first time the Japanese manufacturer has said goodbye to the Formula 1 paddock, however.

In 1968 Honda left Formula 1 after a combination of poor car sales and the death of Jo Schlesser at that year's French Grand Prix after losing the rear of the magnesium-bodied RA302 and crashing into a bank exploding instantly on impact.

Honda returned to the sport fifteen years later as an engine supplier for the Spirit team before moving to Williams a year later achieving their first win a year later before helping the team win back to back constructor's championship in 1986 and 1987 with Nelson Piquet winning the drivers championship for the third time as well.

The following year saw Honda move to McLaren and with it, a glorious run of four drivers and four constructors championships between 1988 and 1991 as the McLaren garage became a pressure cooker as Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna dueled for the World Championship.

Honda too played a factor in the championship as the company's young Japanese engineers preferred working with Senna due to his panache which in turn caused Prost to believe that he wasn't getting equal treatment by the company which in turn played on the Frenchman's mind.

However, despite the success and with a Honda engine considered the golden ticket to Formula 1 glory, a dark cloud appeared in 1992 as the usually reliable Japanese economy stagnated causing Honda to pull out of Formula 1 at the end of the year leaving Senna visibly emotional when hearing the news from Japanese television.

Honda's performance branch Mugen would then carry the touch from 1993 supply Jordan and Ligier as Honda themselves considered entering a brand new in house team for 2000 before the death of designer Harvey Postlethwaite saw the program canceled.

Despite this setback, Honda would be back supplying engines for BAR and Jordan before buying BAR in 2006 but the global recession which affected the World in 2008 saw Honda leave F1 again with the team rising from the ashes to become Brawn GP who won the 2009 championship.

After five years away Honda announced that they would be returning to Formula 1 in 2015 thanks to the arrival of the turbo era with the company reuniting with McLaren after twenty-three years apart.

The relationship quickly became a disaster as Honda's engine turned out to be unreliable and slow causing star driver Fernando Alonso to call it a 'GP2 Engine' over the radio in the company's home race in Japan.

McLaren then parted company with Honda at the end of 2017 with the Japanese company going with Toro Rosso in 2018 before teaming up with Red Bull where they achieved four race wins as well as an emotional win with Alpha Tauri at Monza.

Honda's departure says a lot about how the Turbo era has been run by the sport's authorities who promised the sport's fans that the second Turbo era would bring in a feast of new manufacturers.

However, since 2014 when the turbos became the engine of choice the sport's costs have risen massively which has seen the departure of Marussia and Caterham after running out of cash with the utopia of new manufacturers entering the sport turning out to be a false dawn as it was only Honda who made the leap into F1.

Not everything can be blamed on the turbo engines however Formula 1 recently put the buffers on new teams by forcing them to pay $200 millon dollars just to come into the sport with the announcement seen by the men in charge of the new Panthera entry as 'not good news'.

It seems that Formula 1 at every turn has a fetish of punching itself in the face when things start to look rosier and at a time of a global pandemic it seems eyebrow-raising to ask a new entrant to cough up such a large sum at a time when carmakers are looking to Formula E to promote their products.

Formula 1's issues could have been easily avoided if they let new teams use the less powerful but still reliable Indycar V6 engines made by Honda and Chevrolet which have made Indycar into one of the top racing series in the world after years of bitter infighting between rival Champ Car and Indycar organizations which saw Nascar become the number one racing series in the United States.

It has been done before where Formula 1 teams had a choice of what type of engine they would like to use with teams in the mid-90s being able to choose from a V8, V10, or even a V12 if they wished giving the sport's entrants a choice whether they were rich or poor a choice of what engine types they would like to choose from depending on their budget.

Ford themselves made two types of engines with the team's factory-backed team having a Ford Zetec V10 engine whilst customers such as Minardi and Pacific Grand Prix could use the less powerful Ford ED V8 engine.

However, the mixture of V8s and V10s ended in 1997 with all teams going to V10s for 1998 with the V10 era ending seven years later with seven manufactures still involved in Formula 1 although that was cut to four at the end of the V8 era eight years later.

But with five years to go until engine rules are changed Formula 1 will be in danger of having possibly only two engine suppliers as Renault and Mercedes look on the verge of leaving the sport leaving Ferrari as potentially the only engine manufacture left.

As for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri the consequences of yesterday's announcement could lead to severe consequences for both teams on the driver's and engine's front.

For Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, they will have to negotiate a seemingly impossible task of trying to find a replacement for Honda with Ferrari and Mercedes looking unlikely to supply engines meaning that Renault could be the only manufacturer left for both teams to choose from unless Red Bull go it alone or if Mugen decides to take over the running of the program.

On the driver's front, Max Verstappen could now be in the shop window for any potential rivals to take him from Red Bull with the Dutchman having a performance clause in his contract which permits him from leaving Red Bull if Honda did pull out of Formula 1.

This has now become a reality and has put potentially put Verstappen on top of Mercedes wishlist along with George Russell for a future driver line up when Lewis Hamilton retires and when Valtteri Bottas is surplus to requirements.

At Alpha Tauri the consequences could be even worse as Pierre Gasly may decide to leave his longtime home at Faenza and shop around for a new drive further up the grid which may include him potentially replacing his old foe Esteban Ocon once the Frenchman's contract runs out at Renault.

The race for Alpha Tauri's second seat as also taken another twist with Yuki Tsunoda who was once the odds on favorite to get that second Alpha Tauri seat potentially now being pipped for it by Alpha Tauri's reserve driver Sergio Sette Camara who is now back in the running with Honda's withdrawal.

The FIA and Liberty Media will need to get the 2025 engine regulations correct or face the potential death of the sport if Renault and Mercedes elect to join Honda at the exit door, with the hope of new manufactures looking bleak for the time being.

Join In

Comments (1)