McLaren may have spent months denying they would be joining forces with Honda in a new partnership, but the secret is finally out. From 2015 the Woking based team will be powered by Honda engines and energy recovery systems. The two companies are renewing a relationship which saw them win four drivers championships and four constructors championships between 1988 and 1992.
Honda will start working with McLaren just one year after the new 1.6 litre turbocharged engines are brought in as part of new 2014 regulations. The Japanese company quit the sport in 2008 after several years of bad results. Prior to this the company had success as an engine supplier for Williams and then McLaren.
According to the company’s CEO and president they have been attracted to return to F1 by the sports new greener engine rules to be introduced next year.
When the two companies last worked together in F1 they dominated the sport between 1988 and 1992 winning four consecutive drivers and constructors titles with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. In 1988 they produced the most successful year in F1 history winning 15 of the 16 races in the season.
Their history as a pairing may be undeniable but this will not guarantee success in the future. People are understandably hotly anticipating the re-ignition of one of the best partnerships F1 has ever seen. However Honda’s last foray into the world of F1 as an engine supplier did not end so well.
In 2006 the team formerly known as BAR-Honda became known as just Honda. The company had success as the engine supplier to the team during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. During those two years the team secured 13 podiums. However in their final season they were disqualified three times – both cars were disqualified in San Marino for running illegal cars before being banned for two races.
Jenson Button would go onto win the Hungarian Grand Prox in 2006 for the team but they would see little other success over the next few years. By the end of 2008 Honda had made the decision to leave the sport. The Brackley based outfit was sold to Ross Brawn and the team now know as Brawn GP would go on to win the 2009 drivers and constructors championship. We will never know if Honda could have gone on to win the 2009 championship had they remained in F1.
Honda will re-enter F1 a year after the regulations have changed and it is unknown how this will affect them. Whilst their return may be anticipated they will need to hit the ground running to stand any chance of competing for wins. As they will see with the McLaren this year – it won’t matter how good the engine is if the car is not aerodynamically competitive enough.
Another question worth noting is whether Honda will go on to set up engine deals with other teams. Supplying engines to another team could be advantageous and with a McLaren technical partnership Force India could be in contention. However with many teams having already agreed long-term engine deals this may not be particularly easy.
Honda’s return to F1 is undoubtedly good for the sport. As one of the biggest automotive suppliers in the world the company is well placed to make a impact in the future of the sport. The decision to return will also help to promote the sport once again in Japan which has been a popular destination over the last two decades.
So will McLaren and Honda prove to be the perfect partnership once again? The credentials are certainly there and together they have the potential to change the face of next decade of F1.