There have been a couple of occasions recently when a Honda-engined car, usually an AlphaTauri has ground to a halt or, worse, caught fire, as happened to Pierre Gasly a few weeks ago in Portugal.
Engine failures are pretty unusual in modern Formula 1. Some could surmise that Honda’s woes are just lack of development since the manufacturer is quitting F1 at the end of next year anyway.
One the contrary, the Japanese company is not intending to leave F1 quietly.
The engines are failing because Honda is pushing to the limit, and beyond, the develop faster than Mercedes. They may even be sacrificing this year in the hope of success next season, but they are not about to say that out loud.
The manufacturer has nothing to lose, so there is no longer a need to be cautious or conservative. If they fail, it does not really matter because the decision has been made. Honda is out. It now wants to prove to the doubters that it is not about the ability, but rather about the cost.
Mercedes has spotted what is happening and team principal Toto Wolff said that they are worrying about a big push from Honda in 2021
“Honda is going to give it a big go I guess in the last season,” he said. “And everybody at Red Bull is going to be motivated, not least Max Verstappen. Next year will be a transitional year, with the same machinery. It seems Honda has done a good job in bringing updates to the power unit. There is some good stuff in the pipeline, and they’re still going to be around next year, giving it all to be successful in the championship.”
Wolff believes that even after Honda goes from F1, Red Bull could be successful using the ex-Honda engines and developing them further, although he admits that the long-term focus will soon change to consider the next generation of engines which will come in 2024 or 2025, as soon as they can agree on the best path forwards. Formula 1 sporting director Ross Brawn says that he hopes that whatever the new rules are they might bring Honda back again.
But it is clear that next year will be a no-holds-barred attack for the title, with a power unit that Honda says will be a new design. The firm is after as many wins as possible and if that brings the title, all the better. What happens after that is not the primary focus.
Honda’s racing boss Masashi Yamamoto, said that while Honda had considered trying to do both F1 and to move the company towards carbon neutrality, the conclusion was finally reached that it was best to concentrate on road car engines and “the decision was taken to shift our top engineers to the work on future power units. Given that Honda has customers all over the world for its automobile products, its motorbikes and also its general use products, there was the need for us to move our top engineers at an earlier stage to working on future carbon-neutral products.”
Honda has always been a company that had its core in racing, although in recent years that seems to have weakened.
After the huge success that Honda enjoyed in F1 in the 1980s with consecutive Constructors’ Championships from 1986 through 1991, the company had the ambition to return and build the entire car as well. However, Honda Racing F1, which raced in F1 from 2006-08, was never quite good enough to challenge for the title.
After Honda quit in 2008, Brawn took over the team, put a Mercedes engine in the car and won the World Championship in 2009. That was a big blow to Honda’s corporate ego.
This time, as the company is leaving F1, it wants to benefit from the work done and from the training that Honda engineers get from being in racing. One of the company’s problems in recent years in f1 has been that it rotated young engineers through F1 but just as they were getting the hang of it, they were sent off to do other things and newcomers arrived. This has always been a part of the Honda philosophy and one of the primary reasons why the company has involved itself in F1.
And that’s probably why Honda will back again in the future.
Is it possible that Honda will throw everything it can at Mercedes in the F1 battle in 2021? Or, is the company going through the motions? Start a discussion in the comments section below.
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