Honda return to F1 in 2015 as McLaren engine supplier
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 May 2013   |  8:57 am GMT  |  328 comments

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.

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It’ll be great to see McLaren-Honda again, I wish them well. F1 would bring credibility to their name and help with the commercial success of the new NSX, and hopefully a whole new range of affordable sports models.


At least another company is entering F1 as an engine provider. Much will be made of Honda’s previous relationship with McLaren – I couldn’t care less about it. It can only be a good thing that someone other than Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Cosworth has waded into the fray. All we need now is for Ford to come back … and maybe a few others!





What’s next? Bernie getting the urge to buy Force India, paying off BMW, and resurrecting Brabham?


Or just go back to BMW Williams, Montoya could have won one of those years if it wasn’t the FIA randomly declaring the Michelin tires illegal.


Yes please! Can we have Minardi back too?


The McLaren Honda duo was very fast in its time, but somehow I just don’t see Perez and Button having the same success Prost and Senna did.

Of course if they kept Alonso and Hamilton…


“These new F1 regs will ruin the sport! They’ll drive manufacturers away!” — what a load that turned out to be. In 5 years you’ll have Toyota and probably VW involvement as well. Golden age. Now all we need is a tire war.


The problem for Mclaren is not the Engine, they have the fastest engine already in Mercedes, their problem is they are too short on driver talent post Hamilton departure.

They seriously need to address this ASAP.

James could you explain to us the Bar restrictions applied on these Turbo engines? for last time around the Bar restrictions really did ruin the previous turbo era.

More interestingly, we have seen cars such as Mercedes going hungry on fuel in its normally aspirated configuration and how would their turbo configuration would react to ban on mid-race refueling. Could we see another fuel conservation struggle races in 2014?


How much cross over will there be with their already existing 2.2L V6 Turbo indy engines?


I see no reason not to view this positively. Mclaren needed to make the break from Merc and this seems like a win/win combination for both. It revives the Mclaren/Honda partnership which is still reasonably famous and saves Honda the hassle and expense of running their own team.

I don’t expect miracles for their first season together but going forward I see no reason why it couldn’t work.

Perhaps some fans never lived through the previous down periods for Mclaren. In comparison the early to mid-90s the team were absolutely dire, unreliable, slow and very unattractive to top drivers.

People need to remember that over the last 20-30 years F1 has been largely continuously dominated by Mclaren and Ferrari with the odd spell for smaller teams like Benetton/Renault and currently Red Bull. F1 is cyclical and the thing that separates Ferrari and Mclaren from the rest is that they can weather the down periods as their only purpose is F1 racing.

In contrast, when Renault/Benetton hit hard times (along with Honda, Toyota etc) they pulled the plug. I’d suspect Red Bull will probably do the same rather than rough out a less successful period.

Honourable mention to Williams of course who used to be part of the big three but have unfortunately fallen on hard times.


Disappointing news if only because I thought McLaren were going to make their own engines and become just ‘McLaren’ (rather than McLaren-Mercedes/McLaren-Honda….) Now that’s something I want to see.


There will be a significant side effect to this change that has not been commented on so far – Company Cars!

I am sure Honda make very nice and reliable cars, but which would you rather have on your drive, a Mercedes or a Honda?

No brainer really 🙂


James…Williams are looking elsewhere?

By that I suspect you know of who the rumours are referring to but no real facts so you wont say which is why you are respected.

I’m guessing…BMW/VW, maybe someone NEW to F1 but not new to other forms of motorsport 🙂

From the stables of one of the big manufactures?….(looking to go in a different direction you posted)

I cant wait Williams need to try something different to get back and big manufacture’s money will help and make sense as Williams have a big engineering base.


Remember, Toto Wolff to sell stake in Williams…what better for a big manufacture to dip their toes in F1 in an established team…Williams without Frank needs a future 🙂


Not sure why everyone is excited by a Mclaren Honda partnership. McLaren already have one of the most powerful engines on the grid and still manage to go backwards. In the early days of BAR I recall Honda engines were always blowing up. McLaren/Honda partnerships in the past is no guarantee of success in the future. It would seem that Honda may have been sold another dummy.


I think Mclaren has made a tremendous decision securing Honda to be his engine partner, one reason is that Mercedes will be in F1 only if they progress and fight for world champiomships and if they don´t succeed maybe they will pull the plug at a certain point leaving Mclaren hangling. The other point is that Honda is very expert in V6 turbo engines and they will put surely many $$ in R&D due it´s road car relevance, so it seems bright, the only worry is tehy will design the 2014 car around the Mercedes engine and maybe they will have to make deep changes when the Honda is fitted for 2015, so it´s a huge challenge but if one team can revert a situation is Mclaren, they are a clever engineering company, although i am a Ferrari fan i accept Mclaren is one of the best overcoming difficulties. 20 points to them!


Let’s see. In 2013, the engine supplier is almost irrelevant, the big differentiators being aero and tyre management (which itself depends highly on aero, but also break balance etc.). This situation may continue in 2014, but it doesn’t have to – we may again see real differences in engine performance, at least at the beginning.

Switching engines again in 2015 is unfortunate timing, but probably a change for 2014 was not an option at this stage.

With an additional supplier entering the market, engine costs would have been under pressure. I wonder if this prospect led to the withdrawal of Cosworth for next year. With the number of suppliers now essentially unchanged, I would not expect any significant changes in prices.


pre-orders for the NSX are being taken..

it comes out in 2015

it has a V6 turbo electro hybrid (with electric motor torque steer)

Road relevant…


This story now confirmed still makes me shudder for Mclaren – I look at the Williams/ Renault today and recall their dominence when I started to get into F1.

Has any team/engine partnership ever hit the sweet spot twice – I cannot remember any.


In the recent era McLaren Honda, McLaren Mercedes and to a lesser extent even McLaren Ford


I mean a partner ship which weas successful over two seperate periods.

The Mclaren/Honda partnership as had one good spell but can that success be repeated – Williams/Renault have failed to repeat their dominence which ended after 1997.

K. Chandra Shekhar

Why don’t Mercedes stop giving engines to Mclaren next year so that they cannot be copied.


Because there is a contract in place!

Liam in Sydney

It is interesting how Mercedes has allowed themselves to be manouvered into a position like this. You would have thought they would have thought further ahead and only signed a contract for one year less. I bet the Mercedes board has some interesting questions to the sporting head honchos over all this.


The deal to 2015 was signed long before the engine regulation changes were mooted, let alone set in any sort of stone. There are no questions to be answered.

Danny Almonte

Honda has been an F1 failure since their return. They returned at around the same time as Renault. They tried a wide angle engine like Renault and failed. Renault dropped the wide angle engine and became a manufacturer. Honda followed suit. Renault went on to win two championships. Honda poured in money and continued to lose. It took a Mercedes engine to make Brawn GP into a world champion after Honda abandoned ship.

It’s a nostalgic return for Honda but I don’t expect any miracles.


It’s great news for F1 which has become very controlled and narrow focused in the rules- this brings a diversity of supplies and different technologies back to F1. I believe this will see lots of different strategies and performances in racing in. 2014 – maybe some teams very close and others world apart- we can only hope.

Surely Mercedes will be wanting to control the intellectual rights on engines specs next year. Possibly even insisting on more technicians watching their engines at Mclaren.

Could we have another spygate drama in F1 with all this new stuff flying around.!

I still hope one day that we see Porsche enter the fray maybe with their own works teams only when F1 succeeds with the new formula and start working to reduce costs beyond 2015.


Hi James, In your opinion would the Brawn car have still won the title with the Honda engine in?


At a conference a couple of years ago Ross Brawn said “Probably not, but then I would say that because I’m employed by Mercedes now!”


Probably not. The Mercedes was a significant upgrade.

But that means nothing for 2015 onwards – don’t forget that small capacity hybrid turbo engines with the accent on fuel efficiency are core business for Honda


@Spyros you are correct about the desiel being better than today’s hybrids and electric cars. Right now it is pretty easy to set down with a customer interested in a “green” car and switch them to a desiel or even a 4 cyl gas (petro)unit. When you factor in the batteries, the electricity for charged cars, the minimal amount of fuel mileage increase, the total cost of ownership… anyway you get my point. The fact is though that as racing exploits these hybrid techs that might change. Personally I don’t thing anything is going to be that green until we switch to hydrogen in the future and by then it will be global cooling that is all the rage, just like it was when I was a kid.

Congrats to Honda and Mclaren for finally admitting to the parents they were really kissing out on the back porch.

Now if only Toyota and BMW would come back.

Soto was mentioned above and he just won his first race in Indycar with an engine that is similar to the new specs. My understanding is that he has matured in his driving style and has been very quick so far. How does this compare to Formula one? Well I have no idea, even though top speeds on tracks is similar I have no idea how good the competition is. Also they all run the same ugly car.


That the Diesel Vs Hybrid equation might change thanks to the new engines… sorry, power units, was my point. Like them or not (I don’t) technology might make hybrids a good idea, one day.

I’m a bit sceptical about hydrogen… a good idea for buses perhaps, but cars? Don’t read too much into Top Gear, what they neglected to mention was that storing the stuff in your car OVERNIGHT you will probably loose most of the hydrogen in your tank, because the cell will need to run to keep the fuel cool.

Meanwile, James Allen featured a quasi-electric car a year or so ago, whose batteries were being charged by a small on-board jet engine… the test car was just a converted people-carrier, with all its seats in place, capable of 100+ miles to the gallon! Now that’s something I’d buy into and who knows, maybe even Clarkson would buy into the [somewhat muffled] jet noise!


Nuclear powered then :).


‘Congrats to Honda and Mclaren for finally admitting to the parents they were really kissing out on the back porch’

Sums it up perfectly 🙂

All revved-up

I hope we see a:

Williams – Toyota; and/or

Sauber – Lexus (Hulkenberg/Kobayashi)

If Honda are back, Toyota can’t be far behind?

All revved-up

Please delete my comment.

I meant to respond to Monza71 comment one post number 1; but pressed the wrong button.

+100 McLaren may have made a bad call for 2013 (their chance of winning the WCC looking remote), but to view them as the laughing stock is harsh.

Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. Guess some heads will roll.

I look forward to McLaren being back in contention for race wins. They may need a driver change though. Kubica?

Serrared Edge

James, how competitive will the new Honda in 2015 be?

Will it be capable of producing race wins for Mclaren when other engines will have a 12 month head start?


Hard to say sitting here now.I’d expect pretty competitive. The gaps will be bigger from 2014 onwards than they are now, that’s for sure


James, you don’t know how excited I am that Honda is coming back into the sport. I love the site, but you really went wrong by putting a picture of that god awful monstrosity of an Earth Dreams car in the heading!!!

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