It seems that motorsports are trending among Japanese car makers at the moment. For the past couple years, Nissan has successfully made the most of their racing presence with a revamped line of NISMO-tuned street cars. Jumping on the bandwagon, Honda has officially confirmed recent rumors that they will be returning to F1 racing in 2015. More importantly, they’ll be coming back as partners with their English allies of yore, McLaren Automotive Limited.
Veteran motorsport fans will recall that Honda and McLaren first partnered up all the way back in 1988. From a performance standpoint, this partnership was the most profitable one Honda has ever had in motorsports. Together, they were able to dominate Formula One racing for 5 years, winning 44 grand prixs, claiming pole positions in 55, and breaking 30 fastest lap records. In their first season together, McLaren Honda cars won 15 out of 16 F1 races.
To be fair, credit is also largely due to the powerhouse drivers behind the wheels. In their first grand prix together at the beginning of the 1988 season, Alain Prost took first and Ayrton Senna won a pole position. One or the other of these two drivers would go on to win world championships for the next four years in a row. Then, Gerhard Berger stepped in to take home a victory for McLaren Honda at the Australian Grand Prix in 1992, concluding their initial partnership together.
Honda Provides the Punching Power, McLaren Provides the Team
At a press conference yesterday, managing director of McLaren Jonathan Neale said, “If we are going to compete at the upper echelons, then we need to be punching at that weight. Getting together with a powerhouse like Honda enables us to do that.”
So, McLaren will provide the cars and team, Honda will provide the engines. This is great news for McLaren, who’ve been paying £7M per year for engines from Mercedes ($10M USD). The new partnership will allow McLaren to focus on what they do best, while Honda provides the power. According to the press release, Honda’s contribution will include both engine and energy recovery systems.
Why Formula One Racing? Why 2015?
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that motorsports are trending among Japanese automakers right now. In truth, Honda’s decision to participate in Formula One once again is more than just jumping on the bandwagon. Honda has participated in F1 pretty consistently for the past 30 years, but they’ve had to abstain since the recession in 2008. Formula One is an expensive pursuit, and in times of financial crisis anything that doesn’t affect the bottom-line usually gets cut.
Now that the automotive industry and the global economy as a whole are beginning to show signs of recovery, Honda is ready to jump back in to F1 racing once again. Why? Because there is value in the challenge of racing. “The opportunity to further develop these powertrain technologies to the challenge of racing is central to Honda’s decision to participate in F1.” In other words, Honda is looking to apply the lessons learned in creating energy-efficient Formula One power units to their consumer vehicles. Very similar reasoning to why Toyota pursued the Lexus LFA. With the new NSX on the near-term horizon, pushing racing to the fore makes sense for Honda.
McLaren has to finish out their current contract with Mercedes, which is why you won’t see Honda jumping in until 2014. However, this is great news for motorsport fans everywhere. From the looks of it, both Honda and McLaren are ready to pursue the glory days once again. Turbo engines and McLaren-Honda? The excitement for next season’s building already,