Honda interested in Formula E, but focus is on F1

Honda interested in Formula E, but focus is on F1
Co-author: Scott Mitchell
Jul 5, 2019, 11:26 AM

Honda is interested in competing in Formula E and has had conversations with series boss Alejandro Agag, but is unlikely to enter until it has secured further Formula 1 success.

Formula E would like to expand in Japan – a major electric vehicle market – and has previously targeted a race in the country, and Agag is keen for a Japanese driver to race in the championship full-time.

The series is understood to have held talks with Honda in the past, with the company previously stating it liked FE's cost effectiveness and technology.

Renault was among the first manufacturers to commit to FE and although it has left to focus on its Formula 1 squad, its powertrain development work and team were taken over by alliance partner Nissan.

Honda's F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto was in overall charge of Honda's motorsport activities until earlier this year.

He told that F1 and FE are "totally different categories", but feels this could benefit Honda, which is due to launch its first electric vehicle in Europe, the Honda e.

"Formula E is done inside of cities, as a street race, and it's kind of like advertising using racing, rather than pure [traditional] racing," said Yamamoto.

"As Honda, we have conversations with Alejandro Agag. We are always keeping eyes on the category. We have announced our electric car already, which is going to be on sale in Europe soon.

"There are many Honda customers who are interested in our electric cars so it's good to appeal to them.

"And there must be technology we can take away from the races to the road cars. That's the reason we have interest."

After three poor years with McLaren, Honda has rebuilt its reputation in F1 with Toro Rosso and Red Bull.

It won last weekend's Austrian Grand Prix with Max Verstappen – the first Honda-powered F1 win since the 2006 Hungarian GP – and Yamamoto, who was speaking before that race, said Honda needs to be successful on a wider scale in F1 before embarking on another racing project.

"We want to focus on F1," he said. "If Honda races, we have to win. We have to reach a certain level to be satisfied in this category. That's the first priority for us at the moment."

Honda's F1 future is not certain beyond 2020 and Verstappen's win is important as the company determines its medium-term F1 future.

It is understood that any Honda FE project would not come before the 2020/21 season, but a later entry would be more likely.

In any case, Honda would either have to buy an existing FE entry outright or partner with one of the non-manufacturer-aligned squads.

Dragon Racing is an independent manufacturer building its own powertrains, while Envision Virgin Racing is the only true customer FE squad, but has a multi-year deal with Audi.

FE's grid cannot expand further as it is contractually bound to a maximum of 12 teams, which will be reached with Porsche entering next season.

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Series Formula 1 , Formula E
Author Alex Kalinauckas
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