Honda will return to Formula 1 as an engine supplier with McLaren in 2015 to revive their famous partnership which brought domination of the sport in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Japanese company had its own team between 2006 and 2008, but during that time, it managed just one win – the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix with Jenson Button – and the manufacturer ended the project at the end of 2008, as the global economic crisis struck.
However, Honda has been lured back to the sport by a change in the engine regulations from 2014, with 1.6 litre hybrid turbo engines, which are core business for Honda, replacing 2.4 litre V8s, which are not.
“The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1, ” said the Honda president Takanobu Ito today.
“We have the greatest respect for the FIA’s decision to introduce these new regulations that are both highly challenging but also attractive to manufacturers that pursue environmental technologies and to Formula One Group, which has developed F1 into a high value, top car racing category supported by enthusiastic fans.”
Honda will need to supply a second team on their return to the sport and the word in the paddock at the Spanish Grand Prix was that Sauber is top of the list. But as Honda’s engines are likely to be subsidised – or at least highly affordable – while other rival engine supplies, particularly Renault, are expensive, there is likely to be a scramble among teams to get the second supply.
With the change in engine regulations from next year, there is going to be qute a shift around of engine suppliers with teams. Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn is meeting with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in Paris today to discuss Renault’s involvement in the sport amid complaints that its turbo engines are too expensive. Williams is believed to be looking elsewhere, while Toro Rosso is joining Renault to align it with sister team Red Bull Racing and Marussia is heading to Ferrari.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting told JA on F1 at the start of the year that manufacturers who are not supplying engines in 2014 will not necessarily be able to attend the engine makers’ Technical Working Group meetings – something Honda would benefit from if they were allowed to attend. Mercedes will be nervous about protecting its Intellectual Property on the turbo engines during 2014 when it is contracted to supply McLaren even though there will be Honda engineers embedded at Woking.
The partnership between Honda and McLaren in 1988 was the most dominant in Formula 1 history, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost winning 15 of the 16 races between them. Between 1988 and 1992, they won four drivers’ and four constructors’ world championships together.
The company made it F1 debut in the 1964 German Grand Prix and secured its first win at the Mexico Grand Prix a year later before withdrawing at the end of 1968.
Honda returned as an engine provider between 1983 and 1992 and then started another stint with BAR in 2000. That outfit became the Honda team in 2006 but they quit the sport, handing the team to team principal Ross Brawn who went on to win the title with Jenson Button the following season in a Brawn-Mercedes.