Abu Dhabi GP: Honda intends to stay in F1 beyond 2021

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Honda says it intends to stay in Formula 1 beyond the end of 2021 despite extending its contract with Red Bull by only one year.

Honda F1 managing director Masashi Yamamoto said the decision to sign a one-year deal beyond 2020 "does not mean we finish the project in 2021".

Yamamoto said Honda was already "discussing about after 2022".

But he said Honda needed answers to certain questions about the rules after 2020 before it could commit further.

Yamamoto added: "Of course we understand that it sounds odd to extend for just one year just for 2021."

Yamamoto was speaking in an exclusive interview with BBC Sport.

Asked whether Honda's current intention was to stay in F1 beyond 2021 if its questions about the future direction of the rules were answered, he said: "Yes."

Yamamoto declined to say what Honda's conditions were, but BBC Sport can reveal they surround discussions over fixing the specifications of engines for 2021-25.

Engine manufacturers are discussing with F1 a plan to homologate power-units for the next regulation period - so manufacturers would submit a design ahead of the 2021 season and changes would be much more severely restricted than now over the subsequent five seasons.

This would dramatically reduce the cost of competing in F1 for engine manufacturers compared to the current rules, under which teams upgrade their engines before every season and then every seven races during a championship.

Yamamoto admitted that keeping costs as low as possible was a major factor in Honda's commitment to continue in F1, a decision made by the company's board in the period since the last race in Brazil and the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Honda's improved performance this season - in which they achieved their first victory since their return to the sport in 2015 in Austria with Max Verstappen and Red Bull and have gone on to win a further two races since - was also a key issue.

"There wasn't any discussion about going out from F1," Yamamoto said. "Rather we have discussed how we could continue the project in better shape because we are now having the result with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, and that was a big factor.

"We know we are getting closer to the top performance and our power-unit is still behind a bit versus Mercedes and Ferrari - but much closer than before.

"Another condition we are discussing is how we can minimise the cost."

Honda's one-year extension leaves partner Red Bull in a difficult position because they could have to sign a five-year commitment with F1 without being certain who their engine partner will be for more than the first year of that period.

All teams are contracted only until the end of 2020 and are engaged in negotiations over new commercial terms for the next five years.

Yamamoto said: "We agree about your point. It must be quite a tough decision for Red Bull. But the discussion we are making (about) after 2021, it is quite positive and we are discussing how we can continue, under what conditions."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner declined to comment.

The current plan for the new contracts teams sign with F1 for the 2021-25 period is for their to be exit clauses at various points during the five years.

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