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”.
Benvenuti a Monza! We’re here and we’ve settled in for two weeks of exciting racing in Italy, but should we have come? Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari might like to weigh in on that one.
The Italian Grand Prix was the first weekend where the teams were no longer permitted to use their ‘party-mode’ engine modes, typically used in qualifying by certain teams to boost their chances of a better lap time.
At the start of the race it was a tale of two halves for the two Mercedes drivers, as Hamilton got yet another great start off the line, gliding into first place unchallenged as Bottas got swallowed up by the pack. McLaren had an excellent start with Sainz quickly taking 2nd position, and his team-mate Lando Norris overtaking a struggling Bottas going through the first and second Lesmos, which is testament to McLaren’s progress in recent years.
Bottas was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Renault driver into 5th, and pushing Bottas down to 6th. Bottas was quick to report a possible puncture but chose not to pit. Bottas’ race engineer, Ricciardo Musconi, confirmed there were no issues with his tyres, but Bottas still looked to be struggling as he was overtaken by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen through the Parabolica.
It was a sorry start for the home favourites Ferrari, who qualified in 13th and 17th. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sebastian Vettel reported brake failure on lap four, smashing through the foam barriers at the end of the pit straight and limping his way back to the pits, where the car was retired for the second time this season.
Ferrari’s hopes were then pinned on Leclerc, who didn’t appear to be having the same issue but didn’t really seem to be having a much better race. Hope was quickly abandoned after a a shocking crash going into the Parabolica, where the Ferrari ploughed into the tyre wall, bringing out the safety car for the second time and red flagging the session. Leclerc’s crash athough dramatic, proved exactly how valuable the halo truly was, as he was able to get out of the car and run from the scene unscathed. All this in the same weekend that Netflix were spending time with Ferrari.
Shortly before the crash, Hamilton had made a quick decision to pit after the safety car came out for Kevin Magnussen, who was forced to stop on track just before the pit entrance with a suspected power unit issue.
Mercedes took what they thought was a risk-free pit-stop, with Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi following suit shortly after. It wasn’t long until the race was stopped due to Leclerc’s incident, and both Hamilton and Giovinazzi were placed under investigation for entering the pits after it had been closed due to Magnussen’s stoppage.
This visibly rattled Mercedes, who were looking pretty comfortable. Hamilton took it upon himself to grab his scooter and make his way to Race Control during the red flag in an attempt to justify his actions, arguing on the radio that “there was no light” going into the pit lane.
This didn’t save him nor Giovinazzi, who were both given a 10-second stop and go penalty, serving F1 fans with the biggest game-changer in the hybrid era.
Hamilton was noticeably annoyed by this decision and was talking about building up a lead once again before taking his penalty. He was dissuaded from doing this by his race engineers, who had decided to ‘take the hit’ on this occasion.
Mercedes’ loss meant some considerable gains to the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and McLaren.
The red flag wasn’t in place for too long and on lap 27 we were back on track heading for a dramatic restart.
Gasly was lightning fast on the restart, overtaking Stroll to take what was essentially first place, as Hamilton made his way around and back into the pits to serve his penalty. He re-joined the race 23 seconds behind the rest of the pack, meaning he would have to have had the drive of his life to get back to a podium finish.
Though it looked like a good opportunity for the Racing Point, Stroll seemed to have issues with the brakes, causing him to run off on the Della Roggia chicane and giving away two positions and putting him down into 5th. This was quickly taken from him by Sainz who had his eyes firmly set on the prize.
The same ambition and determination weren’t felt in either of the Red Bull cars, who have struggled more than usual. Albon was the first to have issues, running wide on lap one after being squeezed by Stroll and Gasly down the main straight, and causing damage to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Albon was given a 5-second penalty for the damage he caused.
As usual, there was greater expectation of success with Verstappen, who was making some respectable overtakes, and scrapping with Bottas for 6th/7th position. Unfortunately, this was short lived as he was forced to retire the car on lap 31 due to a power unit issue.
Come lap 34, Sainz was chasing Gasly for the win after he and Raikkonen gave fans an absolute masterclass in overtaking through Turn 1.
Stroll bounced back from his earlier brake issue and overtook Raikkonen the following lap, moving him into third place.
Sainz continued to chase Gasly right down to the final lap of the race. Gasly just managed to stay ahead and out of DRS range of the determined McLaren driver and took his first ever F1 win, something absolutely none of us expected would happen going into this race weekend.
After being essentially demoted from Red Bull in the middle of 2019, this win is exactly the boost Gasly and the wider Alpha Tauri team needed. You’d have to be a hard individual not to feel some emotion watching him sit on the podium, sipping champagne in sheer disbelief. It’s only a shame the Tifosi weren’t there to make his win even more special.
We cannot end this race review however, without giving a special mention to Williams, who had its final race with their de-facto team principal, Claire Williams. It followed the announcement last Thursday that the family had decided to step away from Formula 1 after 43 years. It’s a real shame for us to see both she and the family say goodbye to the F1 family.
We owe Williams so much after having been an enormous part in F1’s development, bringing iconic moments for us all to appreciate and look back on with fondness. Though they will continue to race under the same name, something tells me it just won’t quite be the same anymore, so thank you Frank, thank you Claire, and thank you Williams for the great memories. We hope to see you back on top soon.
One of the main talking points of the current 2020 season is Racing Point – nicknamed the Pink Mercedes. Subsequently, Renault have raised concerns about the legality of their car to the stewards. We are awaiting a decision upon the review of the brake ducts as Racing Point have handed over their current car’s ducts and Mercedes are due to sample a pair from the 2019 car – the Mercedes W10. The stewards are investigating all of this, but unfortunately there is no timescale presently so every race Renault can continue to protest a result or any team if they are unhappy with the result. It is much easier to copy external aerodynamics from images and videos such as wings and floor designs but internal details are much harder which is why brake ducts were the focalpoint. If their brake ducts are passed clear and are very similar, what stops Red Bull giving their junior team Alpha Tauri their old designs to base next year’s car, similar to what they did prior to 2010? Will 2021 be the return of four Red Bulls to the grid?
Scuderia Toro Rosso, now Alpa Tauri, entered the Formula One grid when Red Bull bought the beloved backmarkers Minardi. Their first car, the STR1, was near enough a carbon copy of the 2005 RB1 whilst Red Bull moved onto the RB2. This preceded the arrival of one of the greatest designers in the history of the sport – Adrian Newey. He moved over from McLaren for 2007 to embark on a new challenge. Controversy ensued that season when the RB3 and STR2 were both designed on the same chassis by Newey. Williams and Spyker felt this was against the concorde agreement, very much on the terms to what Renault are going to the stewards for this season. The FIA classed this is as legal for a customer chassis but the Toro Rosso team then managed the car throughout the season.
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The cars remained identical until 2009. Ironically Toro Rosso was the first Red Bull branded car to win an F1 race in Monza in 2008. Sebastian Vettel, as a result, earned a drive for the Red Bull team alongside Mark Webber. In 2010 Toro Rosso built its first car, the STR5, from scratch as duel-designs had been banned. Adrian Newey and Red Bull Technology had no say on this car due to differing engine suppliers. Since transmission assistance and suspension assistance were introduced in 2013 and 2018 respectively, Red Bull have once again been able to aid their second team. This arrangement is very similar to Haas’ relationship with Ferrari.
An interesting scenario now arises if Racing Point have managed to near enough copy the Mercedes car from last year. Can Alpha Tauri, within regulation, just get the base designs to build their AT02 car on their own chassis? They would not need to take hundreds of photos; owner Helmut Marko probably would get the prints to a certain extent within the rulings. The Red Bull for many seasons has been dubbed the best car on the grid aerodynamically and has cut the deficit to Mercedes around the less power sensitive tracks on the calendar such as Monaco and Hungary. Such circuits have more sectors with low to medium speed flowing corners. Red Bull took a gamble with Honda power and the Japanese manufacturer is beginning to find its footing in the hybrid era. Hopefully now at power tracks like Monza, we will start to see Red Bull competing once again.
Upon all of this would we see the return of four Red Bulls like the mid to late noughties when Toro Rosso entered the grid? A cost-cap has also been agreed for the future so this would assist both teams greatly. Red Bull could make a return in possibly passing on old designs if permitted and as a result Alpha Tauri would spend less on research and design.