Honda is planning to leave Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season despite just taking its first win of 2020.
The Japanese company launched its original F1 campaign in 1964, taking its maiden victory in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. That first foray only lasted until 1968.
It would be 15 more years before the brand returned in 1983, supplying engines to Williams and McLaren and dominating the turbo era with Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna. That stint lasted until 1992 when Japan’s “bubble economy” burst.
The millennium marked a third entry with British American Racing and Honda subsequently bought the team in 2006, only to pull the plug in 2008 due to the global financial crisis.
Honda made its fourth (and final?) appearance in 2015 with McLaren and suffered a dismal three years, but since switching to Red Bull and Torro Rosso/AlphaTauri its fortunes have improved: Max Verstappen won the 2019 Austrian, German, and Brazilian Grands Prix, and took the top spot at this year’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
In the past Honda’s decisions to quit the sport have been financially driven, but this is one bit of bad news that can’t be traced to the coronavirus. Honda has decided that the pinnacle of motorsports does not fit with its ecological ambitions.
In a statement the company said, “As the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation, Honda has decided to strive for the ‘realization 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.”
Honda hasn’t said what this means for its Indycar activities, but the company has confirmed it is not turning its back on motorsports as a whole. “Motorsports activities are in Honda’s DNA, and therefore Honda will continue to be passionate about taking on challenges and striving to become number one in all categories of racing in which Honda participates,” the statement continued.
In all likelihood that means that after 2021 the next time you will see a Honda badge on a single-seater race car will be in the Formula E series. Although, should F1 clean up its act, then who knows? It certainly wouldn’t be the first Honda comeback.