Dutch racing driver Tom Coronel has compared Honda’s decision to quit Formula 1 at the end of 2021 to dumping Red Bull at the altar.
Honda shocked the world of motorsport when they announced that they would walk away from the series at the conclusion for the 2021 season, leaving Red Bull with the task of finding a new engine supplier as they head into the new era of Formula 1 in 2022.
It isn’t the first time that the Japanese company have a made a surprise exit from Formula 1, back in 2008 they pulled the plug on their works team, leading to the formation of Brawn GP for 2009 with the outfit going on to win the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships in their only year in the sport before being taken over by Mercedes.
And Coronel says that in repeating this hasty exit, having only rejoined Formula 1 in 2015, Honda have basically dumped Red Bull at the altar.
“This is really shocking news,” he told Motorsport.com.
“From Red Bull’s perspective, they weren’t even married yet. It was some kind of engagement, and they wanted to get married.
“Actually at the altar Honda now say ‘no, we’re not getting married’. That’s kind of the feeling at Red Bull.
“At the end of the ride they only worked with Red Bull Racing for three years, that was obviously not the idea behind it.
“It seems as if Honda is just getting out of Formula 1 for a highlight every time. Honda stopped during the previous crisis, of course, and then Brawn became World Champion the following year.
“The rough diamond Max Verstappen is now cut more and more beautifully and they are almost at Mercedes’ level.
“Actually, Red Bull-Honda is the only combination that’s still in their league. And then you quit… Anyway, of course we only look at this issue with a motorsport heart.”
Honda said their decision to leave Formula 1 was in an effort ‘to strive for the realisation of carbon neutrality by 2050’.
Coronel said other manufacturers will follow Honda into the electric street car market, but added that Formula E, which is seen as the go-to place for manufacturers and their electric technology, doesn’t carry anywhere near the kind of brand exposure that Formula 1 does.
“This has everything to do with the electrification of street cars. I understand that very well, it will also happen with several manufacturers,” he said.
“Do you want to be the best boy in the class as a brand in Formula E or do you want the biggest reach for your brand? If you want to make a bit of a fuss, then you really have to be in Formula 1. In no other class can that be done.
“Formula E may be fun and nice, but that’s only 0.0001 percent of what Formula One is. Nobody knows what Formula E is, really nobody. So don’t start thinking it’s the future, only in terms of marketing that might be a pillar.”
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) October 2, 2020
However, Coronel expects big things from Honda during their remaining time in the sport, saying the company won’t leave Formula 1 “with their tail between their legs”.
“The commitment is still a thousand percent there. The budget for 2021 has already been determined, the stakes have already been determined and so have the people,” he explained.
“Honda definitely won’t disappear with their tail between their legs.”
But could the relationship between Honda and Red Bull break down in that time?
“That’s never going to happen, really. I myself have lived in Japan for five years and I can tell you: Japanese are the most reliable people out there,” Coronel replied.
“They will always honour all the agreements. At a meeting I used to ask for a contract and they’d say, ‘Why, we just agreed?’ That’s enough there, whereas a contract here in Europe is just toilet paper.
“We are all thinking way too fast now. We have 2021 first and there is still plenty that can happen. With Max [Verstappen] and certainly with Honda. Honda doesn’t give up.”