Putting aside all the rumors and speculation about what McLaren driver (possibly completely new, possibly Spanish) will spearhead Honda involvement in their first year back in Formula 1, I think it is fair to say that no one knows what to expect from the engine until the Honda-powered McLaren shows up at the first race in Melbourne.
If Honda has done all their homework there should be no issues. There is a clear and defined mark that the Japanese car company has to hit: horsepower, gas mileage, software management, drivability, turbo lag and weight. They have had a year to study Mercedes’s domination, Renault’s failures and Ferrari’s lack of power. However, package integration into McLaren’s chassis could be something else. This is now a very complex area of the car and exerts a high premium on the design and engineering of the chassis at the rear end, downforce levels notwithstanding. I think there will undoubtedly be teething issues regardless of Honda being witness to the troubles that Renault and Ferrari have had to endure, in a very public way I might add.
What is not in question is the fact that another major engine supplier has come into F1’s fold, or rather, returned to F1 if we are to be accurate about the matter. Honda has supplied engines previously and had a works team from 2006-2008 and also back in 1964-1968 under the guise of Honda R & D Company. There is no denying this development is good for F1 and the business of F1. In this regard the new engine formula has done exactly what F1 wanted. Now we wait and see, are there any other car manufacturers willing to invest hundred of millions and compete at motor racing’s highest level? No one really knows, but like energy attracts like energy and successful energy has a way of rubbing off. Everyone wants to be part of F1 or so it would seem.
There are several engine manufacturers out there that could fit (and foot) the bill. Toyota has F1 experience, wouldn’t they like to go head to head with Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari as well as rival Honda? Cosworth (and what F1 fan doesn’t want to see this company in F1?) is rumored to have interest in producing a v6 turbo with Mr E no less. What about Peugeot, also F1 alumni? Or Citroën? Although with no F1 race in France that is probably not going to happen, but still, all these companies have a rich history in racing so who knows?
There have for years been rumors about Audi or Porsche (via Volkswagen) flirting with the idea of supplying engines to F1. Nothing has ever come of it and both parties have very clearly said their interests lie solely with endurance racing. Fine, but all it takes is the appointment of that one individual or a shift in company attitude and then all of a sudden having your marque on the air-box or side-pod of an F1 racing car does not seem that out-of-line with your mission statement.
Porsche was successfully involved with F1 in the early 60s and in the 80s. The German manufacturer won five championships with McLaren, two WCC titles 1984 and 1985 and three WDC titles 1984-1986 with Tag-Porsche badged engines. Being a huge fan of both of these entities, I would be extremely excited to see either or both back in F1.
2015 will be a very interesting year with all eyes on Honda to see how much they have learned watching from the sidelines and how much they have yet to learn. Both McLaren and Honda are putting a whole lot of trust into each other. This new friendship will either ripen and bear fruit or rot and implode in failure, there is no middle ground. Yes, it is going to be a very interesting year indeed…