Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The power of dreams // The second part of a double-header on Honda's F1 return

Published by Lukeh

Risk is a funny old thing. For starters it’s a board game, but that’s not my point. To define risk is to expose one’s self to danger, to take the losses in the palm of a hand and go ahead regardless, to attempt with no promise of a positive outcome. Formula One is risk. Honda’s return to Formula One is risk. So, why do it?

2006 BAR / Honda

This substantial amount of risk for Honda in wanting to come back like this is no doubt something the higher ups at the car company will have considered. The imagery of those classic rocket red-and-white cars are ones that will always be a prevalent part of the history of McLaren and Honda. The success and adoration surrounding these cars means people will expect greatness once more from Honda. It might be a lot to ask for coming back into the sport but if people have seen it before they will expect it again.

That’s not to say that Honda won’t be providing engines just for McLaren – in fact it’s quite likely they’ll be the engine supplier for at least one other team from 2015 and beyond. For all we know they could have come in next season with another team. However, the decision to sit back and create something great for another year is one I applaud. It’s a risk to wait so long, in some ways, but a sensible risk.

Add to this the regulation changes coming in for 2015 and all this risk is seemingly balanced out by the potential of the advantages coming back to Formula One. Following their announcement, they very much made it clear that the change in regulations were a big benefactor in their decision to return and it’s easy to see why. The Earth Dreams initiative and it’s environmental backbone that Honda tried to express in their final years gave a clear message how they felt about looking towards a future that considers the environment in a way they can support. The regulation changes will allow Honda, and of course all suppliers throughout the grid, to develop their engines with environmental goals being pursued. It very much seems a case of the right place at the right time.

Supply chain

When Honda became a works team in 2006 I was a huge fan. There was something about Honda that made them incredibly appealing – their days as simply a supplier to BAR made them an interesting team to me because they had Jenson Button but, much like Button at McLaren, I very much supported the driver rather than the team.

Then they went and added Rubens Barrichello to the line-up. Well, that’s just a recipe for success in making me a fan of the team.

The Dream Team was complete and the Brackley-based Honda became their own identity away from BAR. I think that’s what made them so much more appealing; here was a team that were on the brink of maybe pushing themselves to be a great one with a line up full of immensely popular and experienced drivers and they almost felt ‘new’ in a way – it was all very fresh and exciting.

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
Credit: Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

Sadly the disaster of Earth Dreams and so forth led to much negativity; the team were ridiculed for their look and attitude of a non-sponsor team, the car lacked any kind of beneficial aero and updates never made a difference, Button was outcast by fans as a driver who’d never be anything great and Barrichello was put down as a has been. Of course, eventually this would be a thing of nonsense but it was all a bit of a farce. For fans who loved the team, like myself, knowing there wasn’t much the drivers could do but finish 16th, it was pretty hard to put up with. As for the pull out during the winter of 2008... well, the less said the better.

As I say above though, it’s time to forgive these things and look forward.

Making amends

The farce of Earth Dreams and everything that encompassed Honda’s failure as a team is why I sincerely hope that they learn from their mistakes this time round. The circumstances are far different to that of when they pulled out of Formula 1 – there is no financial pull of having to fund an entire team and less of a need to ‘save face’ as it seemed they needed to in their departure in 2008. They have the advantage of an illustrious history with McLaren to spur them on and, should he still be driving for the team in 2015, the commercial pull of Jenson Button and his links to both Japan and Honda will no doubt be a huge benefit to the appeal of getting Formula One confidently back on Honda’s map.

You look back and see they have a bit of history that can relate to all ages of F1

There’s a long way to go, a lot for them to do and a lot of pressure on their backs to do what they’ve done so well in the past and I’m excited to see a fourth engine supplier come back to F1 in such a big way in 2015. Honda could be a number of things to a number of people; they could be remembered for John Surtees and Jo Schlesser, for being part of Nigel Mansell’s championship challenge in the mid 80s, for the foundations that provided Prost vs Senna or for the fact they were the dream team with Rubens and Jenson. You look back and see they have a bit of history that can relate to all ages of F1.

Now they have the chance to create history for the next generation.

All content in the series Honda's return to Formula One