The year 1965 was a good year. Sure, I’m biased as to why that was a good year but suffice to say, I’m not alone in my love of the mid-60’s. The Japanese car maker, Honda, entered Formula One in 1964 but won their first race in 1965 at the Mexican Grand Prix with Richie Ginther at the wheel. In 1967 they won their second grand prix with John Surtees. The chassis was co-created by Lola which has sadly closed its doors this week. Then a crash in 1968 claimed the life of Jo Schlesser and thus ended Honda’s involvement as a works team for decades.
The Japanese company did supply engines for Formula One under their Mugen Honda independent partner banner giving Footwork, Jordan, Lotus, Ligier and Prost. It wasn’t until 1999 that Honda seriously considered coming back to Formula 1 and even built a chassis and tested the car with good results. They hired Harvey Postlethwaite to head the team but tragically he suffered a fatal heart attack at a test session and the team shelved the idea but decided to be a full works engine supplier for a new team, BAR Honda headed by Craig Pollack.
In 2005 Honda purchased the remaining 55% of the ownership of BAR Honda and committed to a full works team and met with met with marginal success over the next three years with Jenson Button retained as the driver from BAR Honda. In 2008, reeling from the global economic depression, Honda announced they would be leaving the sport. BMW, Renault and Toyota followed them leaving a gapping hole in the sport for car manufacturers. The team’s assets were purchased by team boss Ross Brawn and together with driver Jenson Button, they promptly wont he World Championship in 2009.
Could we see a return to Formula One for Honda? According to Autocar, Yoshiharu Yamamoto, the CEO of Honda R&t says they just might:
“I cannot speak for Honda, but on a personal level I love racing, but there is a lot involved when you are in F1,” he told Autocar.
“It is the very top of auto racing and that requires a large commitment. But it is true that we do look up at those races and hope that one day we can take part again.
“I do not personally think we can just go straight back immediately, but there is potential for the rules to change and attract us. I follow the rules, certainly, and if they present an opportunity then it would be nice to go back.”
The loss of Honda, Toyota and BMW was a serious blow to Formula 1 and while former FIA president Max Mosley tried to gain more privateers tot he sport, the lack of big manufacturers is still being felt today. The key element for gaining the attention of the car makers is really in teh details and there is no surprise that current FIA president, Jean Todt, is trying very hard to lure them back with the 2014 regulations calling for a turbo V6 engine format.
The new engine has been slated by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. The smaller teams on the grid have suggested that the new engine costs could force them to leave the series and the irony being that it was the departure of the manufacturers that allowed for them to enter the series int eh first place. The small teams were lured by Mosley with the promise of a $60M cost-cap format and customer engine program by Cosworth to get lumps on the cheap. The plan hasn’t fully materialized and some say the future of F1 is dependent on getting the big car makers back. There is a certain Japanese driver who could be a terrific option for them if Honda did come back.
The good news is that Mercedes have entered F1 but will the new engine regulations bring Honda and others back to the world’s most expensive form of motor sport? How do you feel about the need or presence of the manufacturers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.