Honda has announced that it will be withdrawing from Formula 1 as a power unit supplier at the end of the 2021 season.
The Japanese manufacturer stated its desire to realise “carbon neutrality by 2050” as its reason for withdrawing.
“Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies,” a statement read, “including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies.”
Honda only returned to F1 back in 2015 as a supplier for McLaren. This relationship – which lasted until 2017 – was fraught with unreliability and performance issues.
They have, however, since made improvements. They joined forces with Alpha Tauri (then named Toro Rosso) in 2018 and Red Bull in 2019 and have powered them to a combined five race victories, making them the only power unit supplier to win races with more than one team since the start of the hybrid era in 2014.
Their withdrawal, though, now leaves both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri in something of a limbo and with not much time to find a new supplier.
If they are unable to find an alternative, then Renault are bound by the regulations to supply them. This is because Renault currently supply the least number of teams, with Mercedes and Ferrari already at the maximum permissible number of three.
However, Red Bull’s split from Renault in 2018 was acrimonious to say the least and it would no doubt be with great reluctance that both parties rekindle that relationship.
Honda’s withdrawal might also have implications for Japanese F2 racer Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda is a Honda-backed driver and there were rumours that he was set to be promoted to Alpha Tauri in the near future. However, with Honda now out of the picture that promotion is uncertain.
Red Bull have said that they “acknowledge” Honda’s decision, and have thanked the manufacturer for “its exceptional efforts as power unit supplier”.
Lewis Hamilton has taken the 91st pole position of his career ahead of tomorrow’s British Grand Prix, three tenths in front of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and over a second clear of third-placed Max Verstappen. It makes Mercedes the first team in F1’s history to take eight consecutive pole positions at the same circuit.
Hamilton suffered a spin at Luffield on his first run in Q3 but recovered to post two laps good enough for pole, the quickest being a new track record of a 1:24.303.
Charles Leclerc got to within a tenth of Verstappen in what is Ferrari’s first second-row start of the season. McLaren’s Lando Norris will line up a very respectable P5.
Lance Stroll only just made it through to Q3 and qualified P6 ahead of Sainz and the two Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon.
Having struggled all weekend, Vettel will line up only tenth for tomorrow’s race. What’s more, he will be starting the race on the soft tyres rather than the more favourable mediums.
Alex Albon failed to make it through to Q3 for the second race in a row and only managed P12 behind the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. He suffered a hefty crash during free practice on Friday and was plagued by an electrical issue on Saturday morning.
Nico Hulkenberg, drafted in at the last possible moment to replace Sergio Perez after Perez tested positive for COVID-19, qualified P13.
Daniil Kvyat will start P14 ahead of George Russell, who made it through to Q2 for the third consecutive time in his Williams. He was, however, investigated for failing to slow for yellow flags after his team-mate span at Luffield in Q1.
Both Alfa Romeo cars failed to make it through to Q2 yet again, as did both Haas cars. Nicholas Latifi will line up P20 after his aforementioned spin.
Valtteri Bottas has taken victory at a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix that saw just eleven cars reach the chequered flag, with Charles Leclerc in P2 and Lando Norris claiming his first ever podium in P3. Lewis Hamilton finished second on the road but dropped to fourth due to a five-second penalty he received for a collision with Alex Albon.
The race was sedate enough for the first ten laps. Bottas built up a 3.2-second gap to Verstappen, while Norris slipped back to P5 behind Albon and Hamilton. On lap 11, though, Verstappen lost power on the approach to Turn 3 and told his engineer that his car kept going into anti-stall. He limped back to the pits and retired on lap 13.
The next casualties were Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Ricciardo pulled into his garage with a cooling issue while Stroll, who had been struggling with a lack of power for several laps, retired due to a sensor issue.
Bottas had built up a six-second gap to Hamilton by lap 17, but on lap 21 Hamilton set a new fastest lap and began to reel his team-mate in. Four laps later, the gap was down to 3.8 seconds.
Lap 26 saw the first safety car of the race, brought out due to Kevin Magnussen suffering a brake failure at Turn 3. A flurry of pitstops ensued with every driver opting for the hard tyres except for Perez, who went with the mediums.
When the safety car period ended, Vettel lunged down the inside of Carlos Sainz going into Turn 3. He misjudged the attempt and span, dropping down the order to P15. While the incident was noted, no investigation was deemed necessary by the stewards.
On lap 42, Bottas and Hamilton were warned about sensor issues that had been detected in the gearbox of both cars and were told to stay off the kerbs. This warning was repeated several times and the gap between the two widened as Hamilton eased off slightly. Despite this apparent issue, the duo were still over ten seconds ahead of third-placed Alex Albon.
Lap 51 saw the next retirements. George Russell ground to a halt from what had been a promising P12 and brought out the second safety car of the day. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, ran off the track at the final corner and pulled into the pits with seemingly the same brake problem that curtailed team-mate Magnussen’s race.
Red Bull chose to bring in Albon for a change to the soft tyres, losing P3 to Perez in the process, while both Mercedes stayed out on hard tyres that had already completed 25 laps by that point.
The Safety Car came in on lap 54 briefly, after which Albon re-took third place from Perez after Perez locked up going into Turn 3.
At that exact moment, however, the safety car was brought out again, this time because Kimi Raikkonen’s front-left tyre had come clean off the chassis going into the final corner. It was initially unclear whether it was Albon or Perez who had been ahead at the moment the safety car came out, but it was decided a few laps later that Albon had been slightly ahead of Perez and thus the Red Bull driver slotted into P3.
Lap 60 saw the safety car come back in and Albon set about chasing after Hamilton on his newer soft tyres. He saw an opportunity going into Turn 4 and went for it, only for the two to come to blows. Albon span and fell down the order to last place. The incident was duly noted and investigated, with Hamilton being given a five-second penalty.
Albon slowed a couple of laps later, saying over the radio that his engine was stopping. He wound up finishing P13, or last.
Between lap 64 and lap 66, Leclerc got past Norris and then Perez to find himself in P3 behind the Mercedes duo. It looked as if Perez was in with a shout of finishing on the podium due to Hamilton’s penalty, only for his hopes to be dashed when he was awarded a five-second penalty of his own for speeding in the pitlane and then being overtaken by Norris.
Lap 70 saw the last retirement of the race when one of Daniil Kvyat’s tyres disintegrated going into Turn 1. He managed to bring the car to a stop behind the barriers at a marshall post.
Bottas crossed the line to take the chequered flag at the end of lap 71 with Hamilton in P2, Leclerc in P3 and Norris in P4. Hamilton’s penalty, though, dropped him to P4 and promoted Leclerc to second and Norris to the final podium position.
Mercedes head into the 2020 season aiming to win their seventh consecutive constructors’ championship, a feat never before achieved in F1’s history. Likewise, Lewis Hamilton is aiming to win his seventh title, which would put him level with Michael Schumacher at the top of the all-time list.
Hamilton is also on the verge of potentially matching and even surpassing Schumacher’s record of race wins, which currently stands at 91. Hamilton goes into 2020 just seven behind that tally. Given he has won an average of ten races a year since 2014, that is a real possibility.
Bottas, too, will be hoping to further add to his tally of seven race wins, in what is his fourth year with the team.
Mercedes’ form in pre-season testing should give them the confidence that they are able to achieve their goals, even though there are potentially a few concerns and question marks to be addressed too.
They completed 903 laps across the six days of pre-season testing, the most of any team and 59 more than second-placed Ferrari. Bottas also posted the fastest lap of the entire test – a 1m 15.732 set on the third day of the first test.
Mercedes were also responsible for potentially the biggest headline to come out of pre-season testing when they debuted their new dual-axis steering system, known as DAS. It was noticeably used more in the first week of testing than the second, and it will be interesting come Australia to see in which situation it is used more – long runs or qualifying runs.
Things were not all good for the Silver Arrows, though.
Hamilton ground to a halt with an oil pressure problem on the second day of the second test, an issue that meant he completed just 14 laps on that particular day. Bottas also suffered an electrical issue, in the first week.
Add to that the fact that Mercedes’ customer team Williams had four power unit problems in just six days of testing, and there are a few worries about the reliability of Mercedes’ engine.
If those problems can be resolved, and considering the stability of the regulations for this year, Mercedes should be in a prime position to begin to realise those dreams of a seventh consecutive championship.
With the Australian Grand Prix now less than a week away, we don’t have long to wait to find out if that is true.
Juju Noda has a lot of pressure riding on her young shoulders.
The Japanese star – who turned 14 last month – has received a lot of international attention over the past few years as a result of driving various single-seaters in her home country despite her young age.
By the age of nine she had already tested F4 cars, holds the F4 lap record at the Okayama International Circuit, drove a Formula 3 car at the age of 12, and competed in a Japanese category called Formula U17, which uses F3-spec cars, when she was 13. Bear in mind, Max Verstappen was 16 when he first drove an open-wheel car.
Unable to progress any further in Japan until she is 16 due to minimum age restrictions, Noda has moved to Europe for the 2020 season, where she will be competing in Danish F4, and was kind enough to speak to us for International Women’s Day here at The Pit Crew Online.
Jenny Rowan: How would you reflect on your 2019 season?
Juju Noda: It was a very good season. I managed to drive F3 hard and I even managed to break lap the lap record of F3N Class (Dallara F312 with Volkswagen Cox engine) at Okayama International Circuit. I also won all four races of the season.
JR: There has been a lot of hype surrounding you and your career – how do you feel about the attention you’ve been getting and how do you deal with it?
JN: I think it is something necessary if you want to be competitive and professional. If you cannot deal with it, that means you are not good enough. To be honest, sometimes it is a bit hard to handle but I always do my best.
JR: Do you see your age as an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to competing against drivers who are potentially several years older than you?
JN: In the future it will be an advantage but right now it is not. Instead, there are many limitations regarding what to drive and where to drive and it is a bit inconvenient.
JR: Have you already tested the car you’ll be driving in Danish F4 and, if so, how did it feel?
JN: Yes, I drove it in Spain in January and February. The car is quite heavy and not very forgiving but I must get along with it if we want to be competitive. I feel like I want to be friends with it and get along well!
JR: What ambitions do you have for the 2020 season?
JN: I want to learn and enjoy the season as much as possible. Hopefully towards the second half of the season I can be competitive. But I don’t want to be impatient.
JR: What are your ambitions more widely regarding your career?
JN: I want to be one of the best drivers in the world and reach places like Formula 1, Formula E, Le Mans, IndyCar or NASCAR. I will do my best to succeed!
Valtteri Bottas finished top of the timesheets on the final day of pre-season testing, setting the second fastest lap time of the entire winter.
His best time of a 1m 16.196, set on the C5 tyre, put him only +0.073 ahead of Max Verstappen. Verstappen also set his fastest time on the C5 tyres, but his previous best lap – which was set on the medium C3 tyres – still put him a very respectable +0.188 behind Bottas.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was only +0.007 behind Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc, who completed the most laps of anyone with 177, in fourth.
Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five with 90 laps to his name, aiming to bounce back after his engine failure yesterday confined him to the garage for a significant chunk of time.
Esteban Ocon finished in sixth ahead of four drivers who each completed over 140 laps each: Sergio Perez (153 laps), Carlos Sainz (159 laps), George Russell (143 laps) and Daniil Kvyat (157 laps).
Romain Grosjean in eleventh was the last driver whose fastest lap fell within a second of Bottas’ time, with Kimi Raikkonen behind in twelfth.
Kevin Magnussen suffered a clutch-related issue that saw him stuck in his garage for a few hours. The problem was eventually rectified and he emerged on track for the final thirty minutes of running. He completed just 25 laps.
Alex Albon rounded out the timesheets, +1.607 away from Bottas and with 59 laps to his name.
The Australian Grand Prix is next on the agenda for the teams with the problem of the coronavirus hanging over everybody’s heads. It is scheduled to take place between the 13th and 15th of March.
END OF SESSION 🏁
And that means the end of pre-season testing too 👨🔧
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari finished fastest for the first time in pre-season testing this year, as Lewis Hamilton stopped on track due to engine problems.
Vettel set a 1m 16.841 on the soft tyre in the morning session, a time that would not be bested all day. It is the second quickest overall lap set so far during the five days of testing that have already taken place, and the first time that Ferrari have noticeably moved away from the long runs they had been conducting for much of the previous days.
Vettel did, however, also bring out a red flag when he ran though the gravel and span.
Pierre Gasly charged up the standings late on to finish two tenths behind Vettel and just +0.052 ahead of Lance Stroll in P3.
Fourth-placed Nicholas Latifi completed the most laps of anybody with 158, and also posted Williams’ fastest lap of testing so far.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished in fifth with 112 laps to his name, ahead of Max Verstappen, who caused a red flag in the morning when he beached his car in the gravel at Turn 5.
Bottas nearly suffered a similar fate to Verstappen but managed to continue on his way and finish seventh in front of Ocon, Magnussen, Albon and Ricciardo.
Antonio Giovinazzi in P12 brought out the day’s first red flag when he crashed at Turn 4, but nonetheless completed 91 laps.
Lewis Hamilton completed just 14 laps in the afternoon, having taken over from Bottas, before he lost power and ground to a halt at Turn 6. He had suffered a reported oil pressure anomaly and would not return to the track for the rest of the session.
Robert Kubica has finished fastest on the first day of the second pre-season test, as a late spin from Max Verstappen brought out the red flag and ended the day’s running prematurely.
Kubica set his time of a 1m 16.942 was set in the morning session on the C5 tyres, the softest available, and was not bested by anyone running in the afternoon.
Max Verstappen leapfrogged up the timing screens late in the day but closed only to within +0.4 of Kubica’s time and finished in P2. He also suffered a couple of spins , the second of which coincided with Daniil Kvyat coming to a halt at Turn 9 and brought out the red flag, ending the session for the day.
Sergio Perez continued to highlight Racing Point’s promising pre-season showing and finished third ahead of the AlphaTauri duo of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly, with Gasly having spent a significant chunk of the morning session confined to the garage for unknown technical reasons. He completed just 25 laps, the least amount of laps of any driver today.
Alex Albon in P6 also had trouble getting out on track and completed only four more laps than Gasly.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished in P7 and P9, sandwiching Lance Stroll and completing 179 laps between them.
Sebastian Vettel span early on in the morning at Turn 8 and caused the first red flag of the day, but nevertheless put in Ferrari’s best lap of pre-season testing so far – a 1m 18.113 – and came in P10.
Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz in P10 and P11 were separated by just 0.007, ahead of Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. Latifi caused the day’s second red flag when he stopped at Turn 9 with an engine problem, but the Williams team rectified the problem, allowing Russell to take over in the afternoon.
Romain Grosjean was the only driver to participate in both the morning and afternoon sessions, and completed 107 laps on his way to P16.
Rounding out the timesheets were Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon.
Valtteri Bottas lead a Mercedes 1-2 on the final day of the first pre-season test, posting the fastest lap of any driver across the three days.
Bottas posted his time of a 1m 15.732 in the morning session on Pirelli’s C5 tyre, the softest available. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton also set his fastest lap on that tyre, but wound up almost eight tenths behind in P2.
Both drivers completed over a Grand Prix’s worth of laps each – 65 for Bottas and 73 for Hamilton – underlining the reliability and solid pace shown by the team across the three days of the first test.
In third, and +1.3s off Bottas’s pace, was the Renault of Esteban Ocon. He was followed by Lance Stroll, who completed 116 laps, with Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top five.
Antonio Giovinazzi completed the most laps by a single driver with 116 and wound up in P6 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who caused one of the day’s four red flags when he stopped on track on approach to Turn 9. Ricciardo was back out on track for the final hour of running, where a late surge moved him above former team-mate Max Verstappen, who had another solid day and finished P8 on 86 laps.
Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon both took over driving duties from their respective team-mates in the afternoon and completed the top ten.
Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure in the morning session, but recovered to complete a century of laps, albeit in P13.
Lando Norris was garage-bound for a while with brake issues before emerging to finish P14 on 49 laps, while Nicholas Latifi also hit problems when his engine also failed not long after the afternoon session began.
Kevin Magnussen finished the day last. He took over from Grosjean in the afternoon but only managed three laps before a puncture sent him into the barriers at Turn 8.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the timing sheets on the second day of pre-season testing ahead of the 2020 F1 season, but all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes debuted a new steering wheel system.
Raikkonen posted his fastest time – a 1m 17.091 – during the final hour of the day’s running whilst on the soft tyre, displacing Sergio Perez, who had topped the timing sheets for much of the day. He completed 134 laps, but also brought out the first red flag of the test when he stopped on approach to Turn 9 with less than 15 minutes left on the clock.
The day’s headlines, however, were stolen by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, after it was noticed that the German team had introduced a new adjustable steering wheel system – called ‘DAS’ – to the W11. Technical director James Allison said that the FIA was aware of the system and was confident it was within the regulations, but declined to explain for what reason it was added to the car.
Hamilton completed 106 laps in the morning and posted the ninth fastest time before handing over to Bottas in the afternoon. The Finn turned in 77 laps before an electrical problem forced him to miss the final hour of running.
On the whole though, it was another day of noticeably strong reliability and high mileage.
Sergio Perez finished in P2 having been on top of the timing sheets for much of the day, with Daniel Ricciardo a further +0.4s back and Albon and Gasly rounding out the top five.
Sebastian Vettel made his first appearance on track and finished P6 with 73 laps to his name. He had been due to drive yesterday but pulled out at the last minute owing to illness.
George Russell completed a healthy 116 laps on his way to P7, with Charles Leclerc, Hamilton and Lando Norris behind him in P8, P9 and P10 respectively.
Romain Grosjean completed 158 laps and finished in P11 despite a spin at Turn 5 that left him with damage to the rear-wing and floor. Behind him were Esteban Ocon and Bottas.