Honda returns to F1


Discussions have been going on for a while, but now it’s official: Honda will return to Formula 1 in 2015 as engine supplier to McLaren. The Japanese manufacturer left the sport at the end of 2008 after a difficult spell, but with the new engine regulations coming in for 2014, president and CEO of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. Takanobu Ito said that F1 was now “attractive to manufacturers”.

The two companies have, of course, teamed up before between 1988 and 1992 when they won 44 Grands Prix together. With this in the back of his mind Martin Whitmarsh did comment that “the weight of our past achievements together lies heavily on our shoulders”.

While no one expects the pair to repeat their 1988 success, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won 15 of the 16 races for McLaren-Honda in the MP4/4, the pairing is exciting news for the sport and the fans. Bernie Ecclestone may not care about whether or not there are any manufacturers in the sport, but Honda’s arrival is the first real sign that the 2014 regulation change is helping to make Formula 1 more relevant to the outside world and, crucially, to manufacturers.

“Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series,” said Ito. “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. We have the greatest respect for the FIA’s decision to introduce these new regulations.”

Honda has already started work on the new 1.6-litre turbo, however, by the time the partnership starts in 2015 F1’s other engine suppliers Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari and possibly Cosworth will all have a year of competition under their belts. What’s more, next year will be a difficult period for McLaren and its current engine partner Mercedes. The German manufacturer will now provide the new engines to the Woking-based outfit for just one season and, while it will have to provide a proper service, it will be wary of the fact that much of the data it provides will be sent straight back to Honda.

The return makes sense for Honda, though, as not only can it make use of the new energy recovery and turbo technologies in its road cars, but it can leave the running of an F1 team up to McLaren. When Honda ran its works team for three years in 2006-08 it recorded just one victory and three further podiums. The shock announcement at the end of 2008, when Honda said that it was leaving the sport, was made even more difficult when it’s team, now under the Brawn GP moniker and running Mercedes engines, went on to win both championships the following year.

Expectations for the 2015 McLaren-Honda will be high come the first race of the season – let’s hope that it can deliver.

Take a look at our gallery of McLaren-Honda from 1988-92.

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