Honda threaten another F1 exit

Honda’s history in Formula One first began in 1964 just four years after they had produced their first road car. Remarkably the team won the Mexican Grand Prix the following season but following the fatal accident of their driver Jo Schlesser and poor road car sales in the USA, Honda withdrew at the end of 1968.

The Japanese manufacturer rejoined the sport in 1983 but this time as an engine supplier only. Over the next decade their engines powered 69 Grand Prix wins mostly with the Williams and McLaren teams.



Brawn wins F1 with Honda car

The burst of an asset bubble in Japan was the reason the team gave for withdrawing for F1 in 1992 and it was almost two decides before Honda returned to F1 in 2000.

Honda’s third F1 era ended in 2008. Their “earth car” performed poorly that year and Honda switched their focus to the 2009 challenger early.

Unfortunately HQ in Japan pulled the plug on the F1 project due to its $300m annual spend and another global financial crisis. However, it was fortunate for Ross Brawn who acquired the team for $1 and the well engineered challenger for 2009.

With the Honda designed and built car, Brawn steam roller the field that season wining both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships before selling to Mercedes for considerably more than the $1 Ross Brawn paid.

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Honda to leave F1 and RBR

The fourth incarnation of Honda in F1 began in 2015, but the Japanese marque was a year later than the rest of the power unit suppliers in joining the sport and it was immediately obvious they were a long way behind the rest of the field.

The uncompetitive power unit led Fernando Alonso to complain over team radio during a race about is “GP2” Honda engine which was clearly lacking a lot of power.

As always, Honda eventually got their act together but by now they and McLaren had parted company and Red Bull were now running the Japanese power trains.

Again Honda declared they would be exiting the sport in 2021 due to financial decisions based back in HQ. Of course they won the epic season finale race in Abu Dhabi and clinched the drivers’ championship that year.

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Red Bull would have remained with Honda

With the power unit regulations frozen Honda agreed to supply power units to Red Bull racing as a paying customer which meant F1 was costing the Japanese brand nothing until the arrangement was due to cease at the end of 2025.

Of course Honda announced two months ago they would now again be remaining in F1 into the new power unit regulation era beginning in 2026. They will partner with Aston Martin because Red Bull Racing following significant uncertainty decided to set up their own powertrains division and partner with Ford.

When Honda announced they were now to remain in F1,  new a miffed Christian Horner admitted” 

“Would we have made a same decision [to build our own power units] knowing what Honda’s decision is today? Absolutely not,” Horner told assembled press following Friday practice at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.



Aston Martin beware Honda F1 flip-flop

Like Williams. McLaren and Red Bull before them, Aston Martin should be wary of another Honda flip flop based upon the whimsical decisions taken back in Tokyo.

Yet the president of the Honda Racing Division HRC, Koji Watanabe believes they could easily again be under the threat of a forced exit from F1.

Watanabe wishes to to remove the threat of being pulled out of the sport again by making their division independent of the decision making executives in the road car division.

This requires HRC becoming more deeply involved in Formula 1 off the track too.

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HRC president requires new Concorde agreement

When asked about their contract with Aston Martin, Watanabe is cagey:

“It’s a contract with the team,” he told, “so I can’t talk about it in detail.” However the HRC president reveals there is a flaw in the current commercial arrangements for a power unit supplier like Honda.

“But power unit suppliers have expenses for development and manufacturing, but they don’t have income from F1 because of the Concorde Agreement.”

“Also, in terms of marketing activities, the constructors run the teams so we, the power unit suppliers, have little authority until now.

“At the beginning of our next project, we will review the contract in that area, increase the opportunities for us to speak out, and consult with the team to create an environment that makes it easier for Honda to continue in F1,” the Japanese added.

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HRC separate from Honda road cars for stability

Clearly Watanabe is looking to insulate HRC from the decision making of the parent company who have already demonstrated they have pulled the brand in and out of F1 more than any other competitor.

“In the future, we should aim for self-supporting profitability, and you can think of it as the first step towards that,” he said.

The new power units for 2026 come with a cost cap for research and development together with a price limit under which they must be sold o a customer team. So HRC has a better chance of becoming a self sustaining entity than when the previous power units were introduced in 2014 and Mercedes spent a reported $1billion in creating their uber dominant power train.

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