Honda re-enters F1 as a constructor. Now Button and Barichello have to recreate the glory years of the ’60s.
Honda will enter Formula One as a constructor next season, for the first time since 1968.
The Japanese car giant has taken over the BAR team, which has failed to score a win since it came into F1 with Jacques Villeneuve in 1999.
Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, already signed by BAR for the 2006 season, will therefore try to add to Honda’s two F1 wins as a constructor, taken by Richie Ginther in Mexico in 1965 (see the feature later in this issue) and John Surtees in Italy in ’67.
The move is the latest in the line of manufacturer takeovers of F1 teams: as well as BAR, the Sauber name will disappear from the grand prix scene next season after it was bought out by BMW. F1 ‘s two ‘privateer’ teams will also change their identity next season: Jordan will be renamed Midland in deference to the company owned by Alex Shnaider, who bought the team earlier this year; Minardi, meanwhile, has been dubbed Squadra Toro Rosso in deference to its new identity as the Red Bull ‘junior’ team.
An 11th team could join the F1 grid next season and bolster Honda’s attack. Stung by huge criticism in its homeland over its dropping of Takuma Sato in favour of Barrichello, Honda is planning to supply a new team spearheaded by Aguri Suzuki, who before Sato was Japan’s only F1 podium finisher.
Since his retirement Suzuki has concentrated on establishing one of Japan’s premier national racing teams, which as Motor Sport went to press was leading the Japanese GT Championship with a Honda NSX driven by Ralph Firman. He also has a team in the IRL IndyCar Series.
Suzuki wants to run Sato and Briton Anthony Davidson in this year’s BAR chassis (the 007) and is looking to move into the old Arrows premises at Leafield in Oxfordshire. But he faces a race against time to get the team ready for 2006.