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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.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Rapierman

    If th costs were cheaper (including the entry fees), then it would be worth entering. I would also entertain the idea of going beyond the 24 team limit in entries and let them try to fit into 24 starting positions if they could (and still retain the 107% rule).

  • JTW

    In spite of Bernie’s dislike of the new engine rules, I think they make sense in terms of relevance for car manufacturers. It would be great to see Honda back, even if just as an engine supplier, and didn’t Bernie, once, even mention the ‘Koreans’? It would be interesting to see Honda, and Hyundai, powered F1 cars on the grid.

    • positiveCamper

      As we are likely to lose Cosworth in ’14, there will be a need for more engine suppliers. Auto manufacturers are best placed to be able to afford the kind of investment needed to bring a competitive new engine to F1, and Honda has a history in F1 and motorsport that has had some brilliant high points. I would like to see them in the sport again, at least as an engine supplier. I’ll bet Kamui wouldn’t mind, either, though he may well be driving for Ferrari by ’14.

  • Rob

    Huge chunk of Honda history missing….. between Schlesser and Mugen.

    • Sorry mate, I tried to keep it relatively short but perhaps at the risk of sounding like a dolt. Then again it was the 70’s and the thought of bell-bottom jeans and disco has permanently made me forget any global history during that time and the 80’s were tainted by the unique musical stylings of the band Taco and that has damaged my recall of that era.

  • The Imperative Voice

    FWIW the move in Indycar from Honda spec to engine competition might encourage Honda to get into F1 engines if not a team. They can no longer depend on a full series’ worth of multiple engine changes from every Indycar driver to go to the bottom line.