Honda’s Potential for Long-Term Presence in F1: A Subtle Shift

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Honda, the Japanese automaker, recently made a surprising announcement regarding its return to Formula 1 in collaboration with Aston Martin for the 2026 season. Initially, Honda had planned to completely withdraw from the series to focus on the development of electric road cars. This decision exemplifies Honda’s stop-start relationship with F1, having experienced four distinct eras: 1964-68, 1983-92, 2000-08, and 2015-21.

Since 2022, Honda has been supplying engines to the Red Bull team under an agreement with the Milton Keynes-based squad. Given this history, it is natural to question whether Honda will maintain its presence in F1 this time, particularly in the face of increasingly tough competition from rival manufacturers.

However, a subtle change in the management of Honda’s F1 activities last year has been identified as significant. Rather than being directly under the road car division, Honda’s F1 endeavors now fall under the HRC banner, alongside its motorbike racing activities.

Koji Watanabe, the president of HRC, emphasized that consolidating everything under a motorsport division should provide a clearer path for sustained participation. He stated, “I can’t promise that we will never quit in the future, but we want to keep doing it as long as possible.”

Previously, F1 at Honda functioned as a “project” within Honda R&D, which created continuity challenges. The appointment of a project leader meant that if Honda decided to discontinue its F1 involvement, the staff and budget dedicated to it would vanish. However, with the transition to HRC, which specializes in racing, even in the event of quitting, Honda ensures that personnel and budget resources will never be depleted.

Moreover, the new arrangement allows for greater transparency in budget management, with reports being presented to Honda’s management. This improved financial visibility is expected to enhance project longevity by facilitating management’s understanding.

In addition to the change in management structure, Honda’s future partnership with Aston Martin has been framed in a way that benefits the Japanese manufacturer. Watanabe expressed the importance of Honda having more influence in its collaboration with Aston Martin than it had in previous eras with McLaren and Red Bull.

He explained, “Our rights and status as a power unit supplier have been very weak so far. We spend a lot of money on development and manufacturing costs, but the income—or lack thereof—has been minimal. As a result, when the company faced challenges, stopping F1 seemed like the only option.”

However, the contract with Aston Martin has provided Honda with increased authority as a power unit supplier. By strengthening this aspect, Honda has taken a different approach.

Although engine manufacturers do not directly benefit from F1’s commercial rights income, Watanabe believes that Honda can explore alternative revenue streams. Drawing a parallel with motorcycles, he mentioned the income generated from sponsorship and machine rentals. Motorcycles have long benefited from product sales and parts, ensuring a more balanced financial outlook compared to the four-wheeled sector. Watanabe stressed the need for the automotive segment to follow a similar direction and adopt new approaches to marketing and product development.

One potential avenue for Honda to derive returns from its F1 endeavors is by supplying customer power units. This option may be considered in the new rules era starting in 2026. Watanabe acknowledged the possibility, stating, “Our contract with Aston Martin allows for customer supply. Initially, we believe it is better to focus on supplying only one team, although it is not ruled out.”

Tetsushi Kakuda, HRC’s general manager of F1, recognized the logistical challenges that come with opening up a customer deal. He noted that supplying multiple teams provides

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Honda, F1 presence

Q: What changes have Honda made to ensure a more permanent presence in F1?

A: Honda has made management changes by bringing its F1 activities under the HRC banner alongside its motorbike racing activities. This shift provides a clearer path to continued participation and ensures that even if they decide to quit, the people and budget resources will not be depleted.

Q: How does Honda’s partnership with Aston Martin contribute to their F1 plans?

A: Honda’s partnership with Aston Martin gives them more authority as a power unit supplier. It allows Honda to have a stronger say in the collaboration compared to their previous partnerships with McLaren and Red Bull, improving their overall position in F1.

Q: Can Honda expect financial benefits from their involvement in F1?

A: While engine manufacturers don’t directly benefit from F1’s commercial rights income, Honda sees potential revenue streams in sponsorship and machine rentals, similar to their success in the motorcycle industry. They believe marketing and product development in the automotive sector should follow a similar approach.

Q: Will Honda consider supplying customer power units in the future?

A: Honda’s contract with Aston Martin allows for customer supply, although initially, they prefer to focus on supplying only one team. However, they haven’t ruled out the possibility of expanding customer supply in the future, considering the logistical challenges involved.

Q: What are the key factors that could contribute to Honda’s long-term presence in F1?

A: The management changes within Honda, the shift to HRC, increased authority as a power unit supplier, and the potential for customer supply all contribute to Honda’s potential for a more permanent presence in F1. These factors help improve continuity, financial sustainability, and strategic decision-making within the company.

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AutoEnthusiast June 29, 2023 - 1:03 pm

lol, Honda wants to make some moolah in F1! I get it, they’re spending loads on development and manufacturing, so they need some income, right? Good on ’em for trying to improve their status. And maybe they’ll supply power units to more teams in the future, who knows?

F1Fanatic June 29, 2023 - 4:15 pm

hmmm i wonder if Honda’s gonna stick around this time with Aston Martin. they’ve had their ups and downs in F1, you know? but this new management change seems like a big deal. and hey, more authority with Aston Martin? sounds like a good move!

RacingInsider June 30, 2023 - 5:47 am

Honda’s got a long history in F1, but it’s been kinda shaky. This time, they’re playing it smart with HRC and all. Plus, partnering up with Aston Martin, that’s gotta help their game. I’m excited to see what they bring to the table. Fingers crossed they stick around for the long haul!


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