Honda partnering with McLaren for an F1 return

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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While Toyota dabbled (costing billions) in a single (losing) Formula 1 effort from 2002 through 2009, Honda has had a hot-and-cold, on-and-off love affair with the world's most popular motorsport series that goes back half a century. Its first car entered F1 in 1964, which will make brand's 2015 return a 50-plus-year anniversary of sorts.

The difference this time is that Honda will only be an engine supplier to McLaren, a team, albeit struggling now, with a Championship-winning history. McLaren currently buys its engines from Mercedes-Benz. When the three-pointed star is out of the picture in 2015, the new team will be called McLaren Honda.

Honda's decision to return to F1 is due to the race series' new engine regulations, which will see a change from the current naturally aspirated 2.4-litre V8 to a new 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged V6 next year. The new smaller displacement higher-tech engine configuration is more in tune with what automakers are selling to their real-world customers and therefore it makes sense from an R&D perspective as well as for marketing. Formula one drivetrains also use sophisticated energy recovery systems, green technologies that Honda already utilizes in its road cars. No doubt it can contribute high-tech knowledge while gleaning experience from arduous track competition.

"Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing," said Takanobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. "Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world's most prestigious automobile racing series. 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 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. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Jean Todt, the President of FIA and to Mr. Bernie Ecclestone, the CEO of Formula One Group who showed great understanding and cooperation to help realize our participation in F1 racing. The corporate slogan of Honda is 'The Power of Dreams'. This slogan represents our strong desire to pursue and realize our dreams together with our customers and fans. Together with McLaren, one of the most distinguished F1 constructors, Honda will mark a new beginning in our challenges in F1."

The upcoming 2015 season won't be the first time Honda has paired up with McLaren in Formula 1. After its first foray into F1 as a full constructor, it was an engine supplier to multiple teams including McLaren from 1983 through 1992. Altogether it took home six Constructor Championships, which was likely the key reason Canadian championship-winning driver Jacques Villeneuve tied himself up into a long contract with the Honda engine-supplied British American Racing (BAR) team from 2000 through 2005. After the unsuccessful BAR team bowed out of the series, Honda purchased it to form the Honda Racing F1 team, which competed in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons. Honda left the series when the global economy went for a dive, but obviously feels the time is ripe to reenter the sport now.

"The names of McLaren and Honda are synonymous with success in Formula One, and, for everyone who works for both companies, the weight of our past achievements together lies heavily on our shoulders," said Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of McLaren Group Limited. "But it's a mark of the ambition and resolve we both share that we want once again to take McLaren Honda to the very pinnacle of Formula One success. Together we have a great legacy – and we're utterly committed to maintaining it."

Honda's decision to reenter F1 is a sign that the FIA's engine regulation change was the right decision for the times, despite the added cost needed to develop the new engine and completely rework the cars that are built around it.

"I am very happy to hear about Honda's important decision to return to Formula One with McLaren from 2015," said Jean Todt, ex team principal at Scuderia Ferrari and current president of the FIA. "The introduction of the new power train next year, in the form of a 1.6-litre, 6-cylinder engine with direct injection and energy recovery, is a very exciting challenge and demonstrates a vision for the future of the sport. I am sure that Honda will become a strong contender in the years to come."

To many, Formula 1 just hasn't been the same without a Japanese engine builder. It's a global series, after all, racing in numerous Asian cities. Technology is as critically important to fans as following the driver's that risk their lives each race weekend, so attracting Honda back to the fray is as important to the sport's overall success as pulling back a Championship-winning driver such as Kimi Raikkonen who recently returned after a foray into rallying.

"It is a great pleasure to see Honda back in Formula One," said Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Group. "Their engine technology and passion for motor sports make them a natural Formula One contender."

McLaren will likely remain with Mercedes-Benz for the 2014 season before reconfiguring its car for the new Honda engine.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Honda, McLaren, 2015, Formula 1, F1,

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