Honda Is Out Of F1, Says It Would Rather Build Electric Cars

Honda and McLaren during winter testing in 2015 before its first season of return.
Honda and McLaren during winter testing in 2015 before its first season of return.
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Honda, the lovable basket case of Formula 1, is pulling out of the series after 2021. The company says it has more important things to spend money on, namely building fuel cells and battery-electric cars. This is a colossal bummer. For F1.

F1 is the pinnacle of motorsports. The peak of relevance for automotive technology. It’s a place where the newest designs are proved in battle and trickle down to common vehicles you and I drive, particularly in this hybrid turbo era.


At least that’s what F1 wants you to think!

The reality is that car companies have to spend big to make the transition to all-electric drivetrains and a big gas-burning racing program doesn’t make a ton of sense in that context.

That’s what happened to Audi and Porsche in the top LMP1 class at Le Mans, and that’s what Honda is saying is happening here, as Autosport reports:

Citing the huge costs involved in pushing its road car business towards a carbon neutral future, Honda said it had elected not to extend it stay in F1 beyond the end of next year.

Honda returned to F1 with McLaren in 2015 but endured several years of frustration as it struggled to get to grips with the complicated turbo hybrid engine technology.


In a statement, Honda said that it had decided to pull the plug on its F1 activities because of the resources needed amid its shift to electrification in road cars.

Honda said: “Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies, including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies.”


Here is Honda’s statement, just to see it again:

Illustration for article titled Honda Is Out Of F1, Says It Would Rather Build Electric Cars
Graphic: Honda

Now, it’s certainly possible that this is the racing equivalent of a disgraced CEO leaving a company to “spend time with his family” or whatever. But I think Honda wasn’t as big of a failure in F1 as its reputation suggests. Honda actually has one particularly interesting stat at the moment, as friend of Jalopnik Hazel Southwell tweeted the other day:


Both Audi and Porsche refocused their expensive LMP1 programs into Formula E, which would be the funniest possible thing for Honda to follow, given that Honda doesn’t sell a battery-electric car in the States.

This is a relatively large piece of news for Honda, but it’s bigger news for F1. Losing a major manufacturer is a real hit, and it leaves the sport now with Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault only. Engine suppliers can come and go, of course, but I don’t envy anyone trying to convince some new manufacturer to enter the sport. It’s hard to make that case when Honda is leaving because it can’t justify the expenditure on internal combustion tech that’s going obsolete.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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Honda isn’t a team. It is an engine supplier.