HONDA’s Return and What It Means For F1

Published 01/28/2015, 1:59 PM EST


Honda is truly a household name in the world with its wide array of automobiles: ranging from the compact cars for the common man to the high performance super cars for the rich and the famous. However, just being a renowned company in the world is not enough to convince people to buy their cars. One needs to prove that their car, their technology and their dedication are indeed the best available on the planet, and what better way to prove it than by competing against the best of the best, by competing in the F1. This is what attracts road car companies to the sport in the first place, and the newly born turbo and energy saving era played a huge role in Honda wanting to rekindle its love with F1. The new 1.6L V6’s and the various energy saving tools provide a potential for the sport to develop a technology that could be filtered down to the road cars.

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Honda is not a new name in the F1 history. Its name is spread across F1’s history books. Honda has graced its presence as a constructor as well as an engine supplier in the past. Honda started racing as a constructor in 1964 and reached the top step of the podium for the first time in 1965. However, in 1968 the team appeared in only a single race lasting only a few laps before its fiery crash resulted in the death of driver Jo Schlesser. The death prompted Honda to withdraw from F1 at the end of the 1968.

 

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Such is the love for racing, that even though they left F1 as a constructor, Honda’s name returned to F1 as an Engine supplier to various teams like Williams, Lotus and McLaren from 1983 to 1992. Their partnership with McLaren was the one that earned them the most success. One of the most dominant cars in the F1 history was the McLaren MP4/4 which was powered by Honda engines and won 15 out the 16 races in a season. Everyone wanted a Honda engine but only McLaren had the works partnership with Honda, that is, everyone got the “customer engine” while McLaren received the best engine available. So, when Honda left the sport again in 1992, McLaren used Ford engines which prompted the great Ayrton Senna to be skeptical about the car and the engine in it as it was believed that Honda engines were the ticket to Grand Prix glory due to their power, reliability, sophistication and winning track record.

In 2000, Honda returned yet again to rekindle its On-Off relationship with the pinnacle of Motorsport. Honda made a works deal with BAR team and supplied customer engines to Jordan Racing for two years (‘01-’02). But why take just a bite when you can have the whole candy? So by the end of 2005, Honda had taken over the BAR team and renamed it as Honda Racing F1 Team.

The team had 3 quiet seasons in F1 before the heads at Honda started raising questions over the success of the team in terms of money invested. Due to the global financial crisis, Honda sold the team to its 2008 Team Principal Ross Brawn, and in 2009 the “could be Honda” went onto win the World Championship. Talk about luck. It was thought that Honda had left the sport for good and was to focus on other racing series.

This is not where the story ends. When F1 offered the new engine regulations, Honda decided to enter F1 in 2015 with a works engine deal with McLaren. It’s a match made in heaven itself and if history is to be believed, it could be a partnership that will yield both the companies multitude of success.

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McLaren ran a test car at the end of the previous season in Abu Dhabi, called the MP4-29H/1X1. It was supposed to be an installation test, to rectify the possible hardware and the software bugs of the new Honda Power Unit. But, the car only managed to do 6 laps around the circuit in two days. Surely, this doesn’t look good for the returning Japanese company. But Ron Dennis claims that “Performance is not an issue, reliability is” which states that Honda could be a force to challenge Mercedes if it sorts out its problems.

So, will History repeat itself? Or will Mercedes be their own opponents in 2015 as well? McLaren Honda surely look strong as a team with Fernando, Jenson and a certain ex-RedBull aerodynamicist, Peter Prodromou at their disposal. The car is set to be strong but will the engine be its shortcoming or the one which takes the MP4-30 to its glory? We’ll find that out in Melbourne.

Edited by Shivang Aggarwal

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Raghav Budhiraja

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