Honda will step away from Formula One at the end of 2021, it has been
announced. The Japanese manufacturer currently supplies Red Bull and Alpha
Tauri with engines, and have enjoyed 5 victories to date with the teams.
When Honda depart, it will leave Formula One with just 3 engine
suppliers; Ferrari, Mercedes, and Renault. Should Red Bull and/or Alpha Tauri fail
to convince Ferrari or Mercedes to provide engines for them, then Renault will be
obligated to provide the power as they currently have the fewest engines on the
grid. While Mercedes, Williams, and Racing Point have Mercedes power and
Ferrari, Haas, and Alfa Romeo have Ferrari power, Renault only supply engines to
their works team and McLaren, but McLaren are switching to Mercedes for 2021,
currently leaving just two Renault powered machines on the grid.
I’m quite sad that Honda is leaving the sport, as they have usually been
a part of the grid during my time following F1, apart from the late 90s and again
between 2009 and 2014. On the other hand, I’m surprised they have stayed as
long as they have. The main reason for that is because of Mercedes’ stranglehold
on the sport, which they have held since 2014, it has become quite difficult to win
and be successful unless you have a Mercedes unit in the back of your car.
Ferrari came close a couple of times, most notably in 2018, but due to
circumstances and driver problems, they didn’t manage to take home the
Engine providers like Honda have been throwing money at the sport in
order to be competitive and to win, and whilst they have won races and been
relatively successful, they are some way off being regular winners and challenging
for the championship. It wasn’t plain sailing when they entered F1 in 2015, either.
Honda were engine providers for BAR (British American Racing) between 1999
and 2005 before taking over the team and running as the works Honda team
between 2006 and 2008, but pulled out after the ’08 season, after a disappointing
three years which yielded just one victory, courtesy of Jenson Button at 2006
Hungarian Grand Prix. They then weren’t seen again on the grid until 2015
season, when it was announced that they were providing engines for the renewed
McLaren-Honda partnership, following the success the pair had together in the
the late 80s and early 90s. This time, however, it was largely unsuccessful, and
McLaren switched to Renault for 2018, while Honda moved to Alpha Tauri (then
Toro Rosso) before also linking up with Red Bull in 2019.
Honda’s results improved and has brought them four victories for Red
Bull and one win for Alpha Tauri to date. But, it wasn’t to be, and Honda will once
again be leaving the sport at the end of next year, which is hugely disappointing. It
would have been brilliant to see multiple engine providers regularly challenging for
the top step, but this year, the same as it has been for largely seven seasons,
Mercedes are more often than not untouchable.
It got me thinking back to the 2003 season; a season I remember
watching well with my father. It was the year Michael Schumacher took his sixth
World Championship, surpassing Juan Manuel Fangio’s total of five and becoming
the driver with the most titles. Of course, he would go on to go one better and win
seven. I also remember watching Jenson Button’s massive crash at 2003
Monaco Grand Prix. Looking at the teams there were back then, we had; Ferrari,
Williams-BMW, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Sauber-Petronas, Jordan-Ford,
Jaguar-Cosworth, BAR-Honda, Minardi-Cosworth, and Toyota. Ten F1 teams, with
nine different engine suppliers! Nine! The regular battle between Ferrari, McLaren-
Mercedes and Williams-BMW was fantastic, with plenty of battles up and down the
grid between different drivers and different engine suppliers. Would it be Honda
finishing higher up? Or maybe Toyota, Ford or Renault? Those were the days.
Even before then, going back in to the 90s and the 80s, we had
Lamborghini, Subaru (which were awful, to be fair), Yamaha (which weren’t much
better), Peugeot, and even Porsche in the 1960s.
Now, of course, things are different. We will only have Ferrari, Mercedes
and Renault. Honda are going to be leaving, Toyota left after 2009, as did BMW,
following a switch from Williams to Sauber. Ford and Cosworth haven’t been on
the grid for a long time. This is a shame, as Cosworth are one of the most
successful engine suppliers in the history of the sport, going all the way back to
Back in 2003, F1 had the big, loud, iconic V10 engines. Then, it was
scaled down to the V8 engines for 2006 onwards. From 2014, F1 switched to the
1.6 V6 Hybrid engines. They just aren’t the same. While I get F1’s pursuit of
engineering perfection and tying it in with road car technology, I miss the scream
of the V8s and especially the V10s as they powered around the circuit. The sight of
one giving up with smoke pouring from the back of the car was impressive as well!
The engines F1 currently uses are far more complex and far more
expensive, which puts off new manufacturers coming into the sport. Honda found
it difficult when they first re-entered in 2015, and I think it is highly unlikely that any
other manufacturer will want to come in any time soon, mainly due to the cost
involved, but also knowing that they will have to put in so much time and money to
even get close to the class-leading Mercedes units. You enter a sport to win, you
don’t just enter to have a good time and participate. Are manufacturers really
going to want to enter such an expensive sport, to spend potentially years causing
around at the back or midfield, any maybe occasionally get a sniff of a podium?
The manufacturers I would like to see back in F1 the most are BMW and
Cosworth. BMW because of their past partnership with Williams (which was when
I became a fan of Williams), and Cosworth because of their heritage and history.
How good would it be to see a Cosworth powered car on the top step again?
Anyway, back to Honda. It is a shame to lose another engine
manufacturer, and it shows just how expensive and draining being in F1 is,
especially if you aren’t running the best power unit. I really hope they come back
again one day, as they’re an iconic brand in the sport, mainly due to their
dominance with McLaren in the late 80s and early 90s.
Manufacturers are reluctant to come into F1 and are mainly turning their
attention to other categories. Categories like Formula E, which has had
manufacturers like DS, Nissan, Audi, Porsche, and BMW enter. Manufacturers that
would be brilliant in Formula One!
F1 needs more engine manufacturers. Cosworth, if you’re reading this,
then hurry up and get involved again! I miss you.
As always, take care, stay safe, and even though there isn’t a race on this
weekend, we’ll be back on Monday evening at 8 pm for a nice bit of fresh,
homegrown F1 chat, with a guest this week, as Neil, won’t be here!