Honda leaving F1, but not pulling plug on juniors

Jamie Woodhouse

AlphaTauri gains "70%" down to Honda.

Honda leave Formula 1 at the end of 2021 but that does not mean they will give up on bringing young drivers into the series.

In recent years, Formula 1 teams have begun to step up their efforts when it comes to junior drivers. Red Bull have traditionally built their team around a junior set-up, but now the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine, Williams and Sauber all have a group of prospects under their banner.

Honda also had the dream of bringing a Japanese racer into Formula 1 and through Yuki Tsunoda, they got their wish.

After a solid rookie campaign in Formula 2 which saw him finish P3 in the 2020 standings, Tsunoda received a call-up from AlphaTauri for 2021 – and already in pre-season testing the 20-year-old was turning plenty of heads, setting the second fastest time across the three days…although DRS did give him a big helping hand!

And Honda will continue to work with young drivers even after they are no longer supplying engines in Formula 1.

“If we have a good driver, we will talk to Red Bull as always,” Masashi Yamamoto, Honda’s motorsport boss, told Japan’s Auto Sport Web.

“Both sides have said we will continue with Red Bull’s junior team, even as Honda exits Formula 1. I want children to be able to keep dreaming.”

Yuki Tsunoda Pierre Gasly

Check out all the latest AlphaTauri merchandise via the official Formula 1 store

As for Tsunoda, in order for him to have a successful season then Yamamoto said it must be “memorable”.

And he feels the Honda prospect can do that firstly by matching his more experienced team-mate, Pierre Gasly, hoping both will regularly feature in Q3.

From there, it is all about scoring good points.

“Tsunoda is a rookie this year, so if he is 50-50 at the end of the season, that’s good. I think Gasly and Tsunoda will have a good battle if they both make it to Q3,” Yamamoto explained.

“If you look back at the racing careers of the top drivers of the past, I think they finished their first season in a memorable way. In order to do that, we have to earn some points.

“First of all, finish as high up in the Championship as possible. Then, when you get the chance, I hope he will aim for the podium.”

Follow us on Twitter @Planet_F1, like our Facebook page and join us on Instagram!