Renault says Formula One must consider bringing forward its next change of engine regulations in the wake of Honda’s decision to withdraw from the championship.
Honda will leave F1 at the end of the 2021 season, citing its desire to focus resources on zero-emission technology. Their departure will leave Red Bull and Alpha Tauri with just three options to choose from for its supply for 2022 and beyond – Renault, Ferrari or Mercedes.
Although there is a complete overhaul of technical regulations in 2022, there is no new rules around power units until 2026. F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn has admitted it is unlikely any new manufacturer will enter the series until those rules come into force.
Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul thinks Honda’s decision to leave means that date needs to be reconsidered.
“I want to be very clear that we take no satisfaction in the Honda situation,” Abiteboul told Autosport. “We need to call it the way it is, it’s not a positive development for F1.
“We want an F1 with car makers, with OEMs, with engine suppliers, and being down to three engine manufacturers is not a positive development.
“We need to draw some clear conclusions from this situation, and it’s something I’ve been urging the governing body to look at more carefully. The engine situation is simply unsustainable. In particular from an economic perspective, but also from a technology perspective.
“I am not sure we can afford this perception. Either we’re capable of changing this perception of the current engine architecture, or probably we need to fast track the adoption of a new architecture, so that we get in a better place in terms of perception again.
“I would expect that this development triggers some harder thinking about the scheduling of the next generation of power trains.”
Honda’s current stint as an engine manufacturer started in 2015, one year after the introduction of the V6 turbo engines. It started a long way off the pace and was unable to ever match the class-leading Mercedes engine, although Honda scored three wins in 2019 with Red Bull. It has another, one each from Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, this year.
Abiteboul thinks Honda’s plight highlights why manufacturers would be so unwilling to commit to a new F1 project, with high costs and no guarantee of being competitive in the short-term.
“The entry ticket is so high in terms of costs, but also in terms of technology. Even if you spend an awful lot it’s going to take you a while before you get there. We’ve seen a demonstration of that [at Renault], although obviously now we’re feeling a bit better.
“But you could be standing on an island and saying it’s all good and fine because we’ve crossed the sea, but that sea is simply too wide and too hard for the sustainability of F1.
“And we need to have more people on that island where we are right now. So we need to do something, we need to think harder about the environmental sustainability of the engine, about the economic sustainability of the engine.
“There has been a bit that has been done, but it’s not enough. We need to be harder on that. Just like we’ve done a lot on the chassis side in the last few months, we need to hit very hard on the engine side if we don’t want F1 to be hurt on this aspect.”