TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Honda Motor will end its participation as an engine supplier in the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2021 season to focus on zero-emission technology, it said on Friday.
The decision was made at the end of September and the company does not intend to return to F1, Chief Executive Takahiro Hachigo said in an online news conference.
“This is not a result of the coronavirus pandemic but because of our longer-term carbon-free goal,” he said.
Like other automakers, Honda is rushing to build new-energy vehicles in an industry shift that Hachigo on Friday described as “once in a century”. That race is accelerating amid the coronavirus outbreak as carmakers review production plans to capture market share with new models including low or zero-emission vehicles.
Honda, which returned to F1 in 2015 and last year began in supplying engines to the Red Bull Racing team, said it will divert the resources it used to build F1 engines towards efforts to accelerate development of zero-emission technologies such as fuel cells and batteries.
“We understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision. We understand and respect the reasoning behind this,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said in a statement.
Honda is launching its first mass-produced all-battery car this month – the Honda e – and has announced plans for two thirds of the company’s output to be new-energy vehicles by 2030.
Domestic rival Toyota Motor Corp last week said it expects annual sales of electric vehicles to reach 5.5 million in 2025, five years earlier than initially planned.
(This story corrects to say Honda built Red Bull team engines from 2019, paragraph 5)
Reporting by Tim Kelly and Chris Gallagher; Editing by David Goodman