F1 faces fundamental questions after Honda pullout

LONDON (Reuters) – Stefano Domenicali will have some fundamental questions to address when he takes over as Formula One chief executive in January, starting with the relevance of the sport to manufacturers in an increasingly electric age.

Honda’s shock announcement on Friday that it will depart at the end of 2021 leaves the pinnacle of motorsport as a series with only three engine manufacturers and no sign of any newcomers.

Car companies have come and gone throughout the 70 year history of the sport, Honda most recently selling its team and pulling out as a constructor in 2008 after a global financial crash.

This time, however, the justification — to focus on zero-emission technology such as fuel cells and batteries — feels more significant.

It is a question of perception as well as cost, and that can be hard to change.

“Formula One is now at risk of becoming slightly irrelevant to car manufacturers, and particularly car manufacturers who are not yet vested in the sport, because the world of vehicles is changing much faster than even five years ago people thought would be the case,” former Cosworth F1 engine head Mark Gallagher told Reuters.

“I think the Honda move, whilst being shocking, is entirely in keeping with what we are seeing happening around the world,” added the former Jordan, Jaguar and Red Bull marketing executive.

“For Formula One it poses some pretty fundamental questions about what they are going to do over the next three or four years.”