Last Friday, the Honda Motor Company announced that they would be withdrawing from Formula One at the end of the 2021 season.
Since the global lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a shift in the landscape for all automotive manufacturers and global businesses.
There has been a change in emphasis within Honda’s business which has been under consideration for some time and we as a Team were aware that this change may require Honda to re-deploy resources currently allocated to the F1 project.
Honda have made it abundantly clear that they are determined to finish on a high.
At the end of last month we were informed that they wanted to bring forward their engine for the 2022 season to 2021. At the time, one could see that either as a good sign or a bad sign, but following our many discussions it did not come as any surprise when they clarified their intention to withdraw from Formula One. Honda have been thoroughly courteous and open with Red Bull and very correct with how they have done things, which has also provided us with time.
Honda have made it abundantly clear that they are determined to finish on a high and they are fully committed and focussed for the balance of this year and for what we think will be a 22 race season next year.
We have more to achieve together before we part company and they have pulled forward development so that is an encouraging sign.
Sourcing A New Engine Supplier
We are of course disappointed not to be able to continue our partnership with Honda and we are all extremely proud of the success that we have achieved in such a short timeframe. Honda came into the Red Bull family, initially with Toro Rosso in 2018 and then with us in 2019, after a difficult re-entry into the sport and we were delighted to achieve podiums and victories in only our first season together. I would be lying if I said it is an easy task for a team to integrate a new power unit and ensure that the communication is there straight away, but the initial work with Toro Rosso helped and as a Team we are adaptable and pride ourselves in the depth of knowledge and experience we have to drive success.
Now the situation is clear and we have time, which we are grateful to Honda for, we must find a competitive power unit solution for 2022 and beyond.
The time we now have will enable us to evaluate all options and possibilities. We have won races in the hybrid era with two different power units, so our focus is very much on the chassis and in terms of what that delivers, and whatever power unit we use - we will deliver with.
We have seen all of the power units converging over the last 12 months and so the landscape is changing as everyone becomes more competitive.
People keep asking whether Honda's departure would mean a change in our driver line-up or result in Max leaving the Team.
I had a good conversation with Max before the announcement and he is just as motivated, upbeat and trusts the Team.
There are now some big decisions to be made within the Team and also in the sport as future power unit solutions and technologies are evaluated against the spectacle and DNA of Formula One.
A Return To The Nürburgring
I have seen some weather reports with the predicted temperature as low as three degrees. It means our long johns and winter jackets from pre-season testing will get some more use this year, but it is a great track and we have had good races there in the past.
We won the last race at the Nürburgring with Sebastian in 2013, which was a home victory for him. Mark Webber got his first victory there and David Coulthard should have scored our first podium there in 2005 but for an over-enthusiastic finger on the speed limiter button in the pit lane! So, we have always enjoyed racing at the Nürburgring. As for the conditions - they could be beautiful, they could be miserable - but we will deal with it.
In terms of Honda, the news does not change anything. We still have a season and a half left using Honda power and we are determined to build on the progress we have made with them.
As a group, we have won five races with Honda and scored eight podiums out of 10 races so far this year, so we are still very much focused on achieving more success in 2020 and 2021.