Honda Ditching Formula 1, Sticking With IndyCar
Honda has decided to leave Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season to allegedly focus on electric and fuel-cell development. The company has said F1 hybrid combustion engines didn’t mesh with its plan of realizing “carbon neutrality by 2050” and has opted to leave Red Bull and AlphaTauri in a difficult spot moving forward. They’ll both need to find a replacement engine supplier before the 2022 season while Honda decides where it might make a better environmental impact — settling on IndyCar.
Less than a full weekend after vowing to abandon F1, Honda doubled down on Indy by agreeing to a multi-year extension to continue supplying motors until at least 2023. In fact, Honda Performance Development (HPD) is actively working on a 2.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 hybrid unit, aimed at roughly 900 horsepower, for the sport’s next generation of cars. While we’re pleased to see any manufacturer maintaining its commitment to motorsports, the decision seems at odds with Honda’s plan to pull out of Formula 1 — which has likewise acknowledged a desire to become carbon neutral. Like Indy, F1 is also planning on using hybrid combustion engines for the foreseeable future.
No more so than any other automaker. While it seems hypocritical to dump Formula 1 and stay with IndyCar, the former tends to favor costly technological advancements to drive the sport forward. IndyCar uses less cutting-edge hardware, by comparison, and intentionally tries to suppress overall costs to keep the sport more competitive. The average Formula 1 race team has a seasonal budget that absolutely dwarfs the $15 million spent by IndyCar teams each year. But IndyCar also requires smaller investments from engine suppliers, which is important when the only ones in the mix are Honda and Chevrolet.
Indy seems to be the more appetizing venue right now, too. While F1 has more fans globally and attempted to level the playing field by introducing a new budget cap (that’s still 10 times what Indy spends) for teams, Ferrari has been discussing expanding its racing program to include IndyCar. Meanwhile, McLaren has already signed up by partnering with Chevrolet and Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Why would Honda leave when Indy requires a less rigorous engine development program, more opportunities for its platform to shine, and has new teams ready to join the field? And why would it announce leaving F1 in such frank terms when it can simply frame it as a way to free up money for positive-sounding environmental goals?
“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,” read a company statement late last week. “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.”
“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 realization of carbon neutrality. Toward this end, Honda made the decision to conclude its participation in F1.”
Over the weekend, the automaker announced its agreement to remain committed to IndyCar. “Honda welcomes this step to the future by IndyCar, action that mirrors Honda’s efforts to develop and manufacture high performance, electrified products that will meet industry challenges and delight our customers,” Ted Klaus, president of Honda Performance Development, elaborated.
“At Honda, we race to develop our people, to innovate technologies and to engage fans. We are proud of our uninterrupted, 27-year leadership in IndyCar, and look forward to delivering a next-generation Honda 2.4-liter hybrid power unit with more than 900 horsepower.”
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