Honda's announcement last year that they were pulling out of Formula One as an engine supplier to Red Bull Racing at the end of this season came as a shock to many of us, especially since the partnership was on an winning trend. While Honda endured years of languishing (and ridicule) at the back of the field with McLaren following their re-entry into F1, they have been able to develop their power unit to be contenders to Mercedes.
They're leaving F1 on the verge of possibly winning a title, but what does that mean for Red Bull? Now the answers are a bit clearer as Honda has just released a statement outlining how they will be pulling out of Formula One, and the primary takeaway is that it wont be an absolute break.
From 2022, Red Bull Racing will be using Honda's intellectual property (IP) with regards to the power unit. Actually it will be Red Bull that will be producing the power unit. What RBR will be doing is absorbing the UK-based Honda Racing Development and its employees to form Red Bull Powertrains.
Honda will still be involved in all of this as they will provide trackside and race operation support from Japan starting next season. This was to help RBR make a smooth transition from a constructor but a customer for engines, to a constructor and engine manufacturer. By 2023, Red Bull Powertrains will be fully responsible for the manufacturing and servicing of the engines for Red Bull Racing and for Scuderia AlphaTauri.
"Red Bull’s collaboration with Honda has been enormously successful and while our relationship in Formula 1 is changing, neither of us wish for that to be the end of the story," said Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Honda CEO and Team Principal. "We are very pleased that our ambitious and exciting Red Bull Powertrains project will be strongly supported by Honda, technically and operationally, in 2022 and this will help ensure that Red Bull’s transition to the status of chassis and power unit manufacturer is seamless."
Honda also mentioned that they will work with Red Bull to continue their young driver programs: the Red Bull Junior Team and Honda Formula Dream Project, respectively. The companies will work on other collaborations in other motorsport activities.
Interestingly, Honda also stated that they will be reorganizing their motorsport activities under Honda Racing Corporation (HRC). Fans of MotoGP would be familiar with HRC, and it seems Honda integrate their auto racing activities into HRC as well. It will be HRC that will support Red Bull in 2022.
"I’m glad that we have reached an agreement with Red Bull Group covering all the details of the IP rights for the F1 Power Unit and in this way, Honda can still contribute to the motor racing world. We are now working hard to strengthen HRC’s structure, so that it can ensure our fans will be able to continue to enjoy Honda’s role in all types of motorsport," said Koji Watanabe, Chief Officer for Brand and Communication Operations of Honda.
So yes, Honda and RBR will continue to cooperate, but the question that remains is will Honda be able to formally leave Formula One as champions with Red Bull Racing? We only have a few races to find out.