|Full name||Honda Racing F1 Team (2006–2008)
Honda R & D Company
|Base||Tokyo, Japan (1964)
Amsterdam, Netherlands (1965–1966)
Slough, UK (1967–1968)
Brackley, UK and Tochigi, Japan (2006–2008)
|Noted staff||Ross Brawn
|Noted drivers|| Ronnie Bucknum
|Previous name||British American Racing|
|Next name||Brawn GP Formula One Team|
|Formula One World Championship career|
|First entry||1964 German Grand Prix|
|Final entry||2008 Brazilian Grand Prix|
Honda has participated in Formula One, as an entrant, constructor and engine supplier, for various periods since 1964. Honda's involvement in Formula One began with the 1964 season; their withdrawal in 1968 was precipitated by the death of Honda driver Jo Schlesser during the 1968 French Grand Prix. They returned in 1983 as an engine supplier, a role that ended in 1992. They returned again in 2000, providing engines for British American Racing (BAR). By the end of 2005 they had bought out the BAR team, based at Brackley, United Kingdom, and renamed their new subsidiary Honda Racing.
It was announced on 5 December 2008 that Honda would be exiting Formula One with immediate effect due to the global financial crisis and were looking to sell their team. On 27 February 2009 it was announced that team principal Ross Brawn had led a management buyout of the Brackley team. The team raced successfully as Brawn GP in 2009, and was subsequently sold to Daimler AG and renamed Mercedes GP for the 2010 season.
Honda entered Formula One Grand Prix racing in 1964, just four years after producing their first road car. They began development of the RA271 in 1962 and startled the European-dominated Formula One garages with their all-Japanese factory team (except for American drivers Ronnie Bucknum and Richie Ginther). More startling was the fact that Honda built their own engine and chassis, something only Ferrari and BRM – of the other teams still running in 1962 – had previously done.
In only their second year of competition, Honda reached the coveted top step of the podium with Ginther's win in the RA272 at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. For the new 3.0L rules from 1966, Honda introduced the Honda RA273. Although the RA273's engine was a well-designed, ~360 bhp V12, the car was let down by a relatively heavy and unwieldy in-house chassis. Honda returned to the winner's circle in 1967 with the new Honda RA300, driven by John Surtees. This won the 1967 Italian Grand Prix in only its first Formula One race. The RA300 chassis was partly designed by Lola in the UK, and this resulted in the car being nicknamed the Hondola by the motoring press. This was the last competitive car that Honda produced for Formula One in the 1960s.
The following year's Honda RA301 only reached the podium twice. The team's new Honda RA302 appeared in only a single race at Rouen-Les-Essarts, lasting only a few laps before its fiery crash resulted in the death of driver Jo Schlesser. The death prompted Honda to withdraw from Formula One at the end of the 1968 Formula One season.
From 1993 to 1998, Honda's only presence in Formula One was as an engine supplier through its closely related but independent partner, Mugen Motorsports, who supplied engines to Footwork, Lotus, Ligier, Prost and Jordan. Mugen-powered cars had won 4 Grands Prix by the end of the 1999 season. In 1998, Honda was seriously considering entry in Formula One as a constructor, going as far as producing an engine and hiring Harvey Postlethwaite as technical director and designer. In addition, Honda pulled engineer Kyle Petryshen from HRC to help with the design, implementation and management of the new engine in the new chassis. A test car, RA099, designed by Postlethwaite and built by Dallara, was made and tested during 1999, driven by Jos Verstappen. The team impressed at test sessions, beating some more experienced and better financed teams, even if they were mostly in the midfield. At a test of this car, Postlethwaite suffered a fatal heart attack, the project was later shelved and Honda decided to merely recommit as a full works engine supplier to BAR, starting in 2000.
In September 2005 Honda purchased the remaining 55% share of BAR to become the sole owner. BAT continued as title sponsor with the Lucky Strike brand in 2006, but withdrew from Formula 1 for 2007. It was decided that the team would race under the name Honda Racing F1 Team from 2006.
Despite showing promise pre-season (with the RA106 being considered one of the most powerful of the new V8 engines), Honda demonstrated fairly mediocre performance at the start of the 2006 season despite a pole position at Australia. Prior to their win at Hungary, they had only accumulated a single podium finish, a third place from Jenson Button at Malaysia. The main reason for lack of form (the team was expecting to challenge for the championship) was down to reliability, with the team dropping out of contention for race victories many times. Pit-stop problems also hampered the team early on, in one case effectively ruining Jenson Button's chances for a good result and possible podium at Imola. Rubens Barrichello did not have a good season for the team, down to the fact that he had to get used to the new brakes and traction control, after moving from a very successful six-year stint at Ferrari. Nevertheless, Rubens had out-qualified his team-mate in two of the final four races.
Honda had a particularly poor showing at the British Grand Prix in 2006. In particular, Jenson Button was eliminated after the first portion of qualifying after the team failed to get him out for a second run. This resulted in his qualifying 19th. He then retired with an oil leak. In light of this poor form, it was announced that Geoff Willis would be adopting a factory-based role to concentrate on aerodynamics. Following the appointment of Senior Technical Director Shuhei Nakamoto over Willis' head and Mariano Alperin-Bruvera as Chief Aerodynamicist Willis' position appeared difficult, and reports indicated that he left the team.
At the Hungaroring, fortunes changed. Barrichello and Button qualified third and fourth, though Button had to drop ten places, following an engine change. In an incident-packed race, Button came from fourteenth on the grid to win his first race, with Barrichello finishing fourth. After this win, the team's performance went up noticeably, displaying consistency (if not overall performance) arguably better than championship leaders Ferrari and Renault. Button scored as many points as championship runner up Michael Schumacher in the last third of the season. Both drivers earned points finishes in almost all the remaining races (with the exception of Barrichello's 12th-place finish in Japan), with the season ending high note with Button's 3rd-place finish in Brazil – less than a second behind 2nd place Fernando Alonso – after having to start from 14th on the grid.
On 15 November 2006, it was announced that long time BAR Honda and Honda test driver, Anthony Davidson would be heading to Super Aguri F1 to race alongside Takuma Sato. He was replaced by ex-Red Bull Racing driver Christian Klien for the 2007 season.
With tobacco sponsorship in Formula One in full decline, 2007 also saw the end of British American Tobacco's sponsorship of Honda, allowing the team to choose a livery that better suited their corporate image. Unveiled on 26 February 2007, the RA107 car featured the bare minimum of corporate advertising (advertising required by the FIA), instead focusing on Honda's environmental desires, with a livery depicting the planet Earth against the black background of space. On the rear wing was the web address of environmental awareness website myearthdream.com. This site was launched 27 February 2007, immediately after the official launch of the 2007 car. Reactions to the new Honda livery were mixed, and Greenpeace accused the team of hypocrisy, given the pollution from F1.
The team's form in pre-season testing was patchy, and Jenson Button urged the squad to improve. The RA-107's sheer lack of pace was evident at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 18 March, with Button and Barrichello qualifying 14th and 17th respectively (well behind the "satellite" Super Aguri team, whose car is effectively an update of the previous year's Honda, the RA-106). Barrichello finished the race in 11th place, with Button in 15th after receiving a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. The team also failed to score points in the four subsequent races, their best finish being 10th in Spain and Monaco, scored both times by Rubens Barrichello. Honda finally scored a point in the French Grand Prix, courtesy of Button's eighth-place finish.
From July 2007, recognising the aerodynamic problems within the car, Honda began to recruit a new team from across the Formula 1 paddock. Chief aerodynamicist Loic Bigois and assistant Francois Martinet were signed from WilliamsF1; Jörg Zander and John Owen from BMW Sauber either later in 2007 or early in 2008.
On 19 July 2007, it was announced that Barrichello and Button would continue the factory effort as teammates into 2008. On 12 November 2007, autosport.com confirmed that former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn was to join Honda as team principal. Nick Fry remained with the team as Chief Executive. On 10 January 2008, it was announced that Alexander Wurz had signed as test driver for the 2008 Formula One Season. On 29 January 2008, Honda launched their 2008 race car. The "Earth Car" had a slightly different livery from its 2007 counterpart, with only part of the car containing the earth picture, and the rest with Honda's classic white paint. Button, Barrichello and Wurz were present at the launch.
Honda had another disappointing year, and by mid-season they had switched development to the 2009 season, where new regulations come into play. Despite this, Barrichello managed a podium in the wet British Grand Prix with an inspired choice to full wet weather tyres at the right moment.
Honda exited the sport at the end of the 2008 season, unwilling to continue the Brackley-based team's $300 million budget and staff of 700 during the global economic crisis. The team continued to work on the Honda RA109 for the 2009 season while Honda attempted to sell the racing team. A number of potential owners were linked to the team, including Prodrive boss David Richards, Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, and the Virgin Group.
The team was eventually saved by a management buy-out led by team principal Ross Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry, and would enter the 2009 season as Brawn GP. The team retained Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello as drivers, and would use engines supplied by Mercedes. Honda would continue to provide financial support during the teams first year, and the Virgin Group who were linked to purchasing the team, would sponsor the cars throughout the season.
Honda returned to Formula One in 1983 as an engine supplier for Spirit and stayed in the sport for a decade, at various times teaming with Williams (1983–87), Lotus (1987–88), McLaren (1988–92) and finally Tyrrell (1991). Though they often supplied their engines to more than one team per season, Honda didn't always supply the same specification engines to different teams in the same season. For example, in 1987 as Williams had an existing contract, they were supplied with the latest 1.5-litre RA167-E V6 engine, while Lotus were supplied with the 1986 RA166-E engine which had to be adapted to a lower fuel limit and turbo boost restriction, thus limiting its effectiveness, though for the last year of the original turbo era in 1988, both Lotus and McLaren used the same specification RA168-E. Also, in 1991, while McLaren had the latest RA121-E V12, Tyrrell were only given the RA100-E V10's that McLaren had used in 1990. McLaren had direct Honda factory support, with engines coming straight from the Japanese company's racing division in Japan; while Tyrrell had to make do with the previous RA-100 model that were tuned by private Honda tuner Mugen; they had little to no direct factory support.
Both Lotus in 1987–88 and Tyrrell in 1991 obtained use of the Honda engines largely due to their agreeing to sign former Honda test driver Satoru Nakajima as one of their team drivers for those seasons.
As an engine supplier, Honda made its World Championship debut with Spirit's Swedish driver Stefan Johansson at the 1983 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Johansson qualified in an encouraging 14th place (although some 4.5 seconds slower than pole), though he would retire after just 5 laps with fuel problems. Johansson had given the Honda its on track debut earlier in the year at the non-championship 1983 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch (the last non-championship race in F1 history) where despite unreliability, the 1.5-litre turbocharged V6 engine dubbed the RA163-E had impressed with its speed. By the final race of the 1983 season in South Africa, Honda had begun its association with Williams where reigning (and outgoing) World Champion Keke Rosberg served notice that the Honda was on the pace by qualifying 6th, only 7/10's slower than the Ferrari of pole winner Patrick Tambay.
Rosberg would give Honda its first win as an engine supplier when he outlasted the field to win the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix and by the end of the 1985 season where Nigel Mansel and Rosberg won the final 3 races of the season (Rosberg had already won that years Detroit Grand Prix), it was clear that Honda had the engine to beat in Formula One.
At their peak (1986–91) Honda engines were considered the ticket to Grand Prix glory due to their power, reliability, sophistication and winning track record. Honda's commitment to F1 was such that Briton Nigel Mansell, who drove Honda-powered Williams cars from 1985 to 1987 recalled in a 2011 interview that Honda were making and developing 4 to 6 totally different engines in a single season. Honda supplied its engines to six consecutive constructor champions (two with Williams 1986–87 and four with McLaren 1988–91), as well as five consecutive driver championships (one by Nelson Piquet in 1987, three by Ayrton Senna in 1988, 1990 and 1991, and one by Alain Prost in 1989), before dropping out of the sport again.
Honda's supreme year in its days as an engine supplier came with McLaren in 1988. Mated to the Steve Nichols designed McLaren MP4/4 and with then dual World Champion Alain Prost and brilliant Brazilian Ayrton Senna as the drivers, the McLaren-Honda's had an almost perfect season. Unlike most, Honda built an all new V6 turbo (the RA168-E) for the year to cope with the reduced fuel limit (150 litres) and turbo boost limit (2.5 BAR, down from 4.0 BAR in 1987) and it paid massive dividends. McLaren-Honda claimed 15 pole positions in the 16 races, 13 of them for Senna, and also claimed 15 race wins, 8 from Senna (a new season record) and 7 from Prost which actually equaled the old record he jointly held with Jim Clark. McLaren scored a then record 199 points in the Constructors' Championship, a massive 134 points ahead of second placed Ferrari (who's driver Gerhard Berger was the only non-McLaren pole winner in Britain and the only non-McLaren winner in Italy), while Senna and Prost were the only drivers in contention for the Drivers' Championship ultimately won by Senna. Prost actually scored more points than Senna over the course of the season, largely thanks to 7 second place finishes to go with his 7 wins, but under the rules of the time only the best 11 scores counted to the championship which saw the title go to the Brazilian.
Fittingly in the last race of Formula One's original turbo era, the 1988 Australian Grand Prix, Honda powered engines closed out the podium with Prost defeating Senna with the Lotus of Nelson Piquet finishing an easy 3rd.
Honda-powered cars had won 71 Grands Prix by the end of the 1992 season, 69 of them as an engine supplier between 1983 and 1992. Williams had 23 wins (75 races) and Lotus 2 wins (32 races) while McLaren gave the Japanese company 44 wins from 80 starts with the team.
Honda returned yet again in 2000, providing engines for BAR. They also supplied engines to Jordan Grand Prix for 2001 and 2002. This would lead to a battle for the right to use the Honda engines in the long term. In 2003, despite their better showing in the previous two seasons, Honda dropped Jordan Grand Prix. In mid-November 2004 Honda purchased 45% of the BAR team from British American Tobacco (BAT, the founder and owner of BAR) following BAR's best season, when they were able to achieve second place in the 2004 Formula One season, a year dominated by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.
Honda returned to Formula One as an engine supplier in 2015, reviving their relationship with 1980s partner McLaren. However, the engine has so far proved to be significantly underpowered and inefficient. In addition it has been so unreliable that the team were hit with a record 105-grid position penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix. In Belgium engine chief Yasuhisa Arai, claimed that the engine was 25 horsepower (19 kW) more powerful than the Renault plant, and on a par with the Ferarri. However, just one race later at Monza, Arai admitted that the Honda engine was in fact 180 horsepower (130 kW) down on the Renault. However, Arai refused to apologise for the poor performance of the engine. Arai was replaced as head of Honda's Formula One programme by Yusuke Hasegawa on 1 March 2016. During the 2016 season Hasegawa admitted that the poor performance of the Honda engine meant that "only luck will put them on this year's podium" and "in our current situation, there are not many teams who want our engine". In 2016 Hasegawa was asked when the Honda engine would be competitive with the second tier engines of Ferrari and Renault, to which Hasegawa admitted "maybe next year", two years later than when Arai claimed the Honda engine was more powerful. In 2017 the Honda engine was described as having "no power and no reliability" by driver and double world champion Alonso, with the lack of power meaning the car was 30 km/h down on the straights, and the engine needing replacing five times over four days. Alonso further confirmed that the Honda engine was so down on power that he could take almost all corners on the circuit at full throttle. McLaren were so disappointed in the performance of the Honda engine, that despite McLaren receiving $100 million per year to run the Honda engine, in 2017 McLaren approached rivals Mercedes for a potential engine supply.
|Constructor||Season(s)||Total wins||First win||Last win|
|Williams||1983–1987||23||1984 Dallas Grand Prix||1987 Mexican Grand Prix|
|Lotus||1987–1988||2||1987 Monaco Grand Prix||1987 Detroit Grand Prix|
|McLaren||1988–1992, 2015–2016||44||1988 Brazilian Grand Prix||1992 Australian Grand Prix|
|Total||1983–2016||69||1984 Dallas Grand Prix||1992 Australian Grand Prix|
Bold indicates current engine deal.
(italics indicates non-works entries; bold indicates championships won)
|1964||Honda R & D Company||RA271||RA271E 1.5 V12||D||Ronnie Bucknum||0||NC|
|1965||Honda R & D Company||RA272||RA272E 1.5 V12||G|| Ronnie Bucknum
|1966||Honda R & D Company||RA273||RA273E 3.0 V12||G|| Ronnie Bucknum
|1967||Honda R & D Company||RA273
|RA273E 3.0 V12||John Surtees||20||4th|
|1968||Honda R & D Company||RA300
|RA273E 3.0 V12
RA301E 3.0 V12
RA302E 3.0 V8
| David Hobbs
|Joakim Bonnier Racing Team||RA301||RA301E 3.0 V12||G||Joakim Bonnier|
|1969 – 2005: Honda did not compete as a constructor.|
|2006||Lucky Strike Honda Racing F1 Team||RA106||RA806E 2.4 V8||M||11.
| Rubens Barrichello
|2007||Honda Racing F1 Team||RA107||RA807E 2.4 V8||B||7.
| Jenson Button
|2008||Honda Racing F1 Team||RA108||RA808E 2.4 V8||B||16.
| Jenson Button
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