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Honda to quit F1 to focus on zero-emissions technology

TOKYO — Honda will end its participation as an engine supplier in the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2021 season to focus on zero-emissions technology, it said on Friday.

The decision was made at the end of September and the company does not intend to return to F1, CEO Takahiro Hachigo said in an online news conference.

“This is not a result of the coronavirus pandemic but because of our longer-term carbon-free goal,” he said.

Honda, which returned to F1 in 2015 in partnership with the Red Bull Racing team, will instead accelerate development of zero-emissions technologies such as fuel cells and batteries.

“We understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision. We understand and respect the reasoning behind this,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said in a statement.

Honda supplies two Red Bull owned F1 teams — Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri (previously Toro Rosso). Both teams have been grand prix winners this season, making Honda the only engine supplier to have won with two different teams in the V-6 turbo hybrid era that started in 2014 and that has been dominated by Mercedes.

“The shifting focus within the automotive industry has led to Honda’s decision to re-deploy their resources,” said Horner.

“Their decision presents obvious challenges for us as a team but we have been here before and with our strength in depth we are well prepared and equipped to respond effectively, as we have proven in the past.”

Honda’s departure will leave only Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault as Formula One engine makers.

Horner said Red Bull, whose main driver is highly rated Dutch 23-year-old Max Verstappen, would evaluate their options as a group.

Red Bull won four constructors’ titles in a row with Renault from 2010-13 but the relationship with the French automaker soured in the V-6 era, with the team branding the engines as Tag Heuer for a period.

Both Red Bull-owned teams have used Ferrari units previously, but the Italian automaker’s power unit has lost performance this season.

Mercedes already supply Racing Point and Williams as well as their own factory team and are due to provide engines to McLaren, currently with Renault, next year.

“Whilst we are disappointed not to continue our partnership with Honda, we are enormously proud of our joint success, delivering five wins and 15 podiums for both Red Bull owned teams,” Horner said.

He said Red Bull remained committed to the sport in the long term, having recently signed a new commercial agreement for the next five years.

Honda is launching its first mass-produced all-battery car this month – the Honda e – and has announced plans for two thirds of the company’s output to be electrified by 2030.

Domestic rival Toyota last week said it expects annual sales of electric vehicles to reach 5.5 million in 2025, five years earlier than initially planned.

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