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Honda in Formula One

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)[1]
Noted staff Ross Brawn
Nick Fry
Noted drivers Ronnie Bucknum,
Richie Ginther,
Jo Schlesser,
John Surtees,
Jenson Button,
Rubens Barrichello
Previous name British American Racing
Next name Brawn GP Formula One Team
Formula One World Championship career
First entry 1964 German Grand Prix
Races entered 88
Race victories 3
Podiums 9
Pole positions 2
Fastest laps 2
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 F1 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.[2] 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.[3] On 27 February 2009 it was announced that team principal Ross Brawn had led a management buyout of the Brackley team.[4] The team raced successfully as Brawn GP in 2009, and was subsequently sold to Daimler AG and renamed Mercedes GP for the 2010 season.

On 17 May 2013 Honda announced their intention to return to the sport in the 2015 Formula One season under a works agreement with McLaren to supply V6 engines and ERS units.[5]


  • History 1
    • Honda R & D Company (1964–1968) 1.1
    • Aborted 1999 F1 project 1.2
    • Honda Racing F1 Team (2006–2008) 1.3
      • 2006 season 1.3.1
      • 2007 season 1.3.2
      • 2008 season 1.3.3
    • Sale and formation of Brawn GP 1.4
  • Honda as an engine supplier 2
    • Spirit, Williams, Lotus, McLaren and Tyrrell (1983–1992) 2.1
    • BAR and Jordan (2000–2005) 2.2
    • McLaren (2015–) 2.3
  • Formula One results 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Honda R & D Company (1964–1968)

Restored 1965 Honda RA272, the first Japanese car to win in Formula One. The car is painted in the racing colors of Japan.

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.

John Surtees and Yoshio Nakamura at the 1968 Dutch Grand Prix.

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 F1 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 F1 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 F1 at the end of the 1968 Formula One season.[2]

Aborted 1999 F1 project

From 1993 to 1998, Honda's only presence in F1 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.[6] 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.

Honda Racing F1 Team (2006–2008)

The logo used by Honda from 2006 to 2008.

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.

2006 season

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.

Rubens Barrichello driving for Honda at the 2006 Brazilian GP.

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, Jenson 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 the Brazil – less than a second behind 2nd place Fernando Alonso – after having to start from 14th on the grid.

On November 15, 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 racer Christian Klien for the 2007 season.

2007 season

Earthdreams livery on Honda's trucks.

With tobacco sponsorship in F1 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 This site was launched February 27, 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.[7]

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 March 18, 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.[8]

2008 season

On 19 July 2007, it was announced that Barrichello and Button would continue the factory effort as teammates into 2008.[9] On November 12, 2007, confirmed that former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn was to join Honda as team principal. Nick Fry remained with the team as Chief Executive.[10] On 10 January 2008, it was announced that Alexander Wurz had signed as test driver for the 2008 Formula One Season.[11] 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.

Sale and formation of Brawn GP

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.[2] 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.[12][13][14]

The team was eventually saved by a management buy-out led by team principal Ross Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry,[4] and would enter the 2009 season as Brawn GP.[15] The team retained Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello as drivers, and would use engines supplied by Mercedes.[16] 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 as an engine supplier

Spirit, Williams, Lotus, McLaren and Tyrrell (1983–1992)

Honda RA121E V12 engine as supplied to McLaren for the 1991 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 (1984–87), 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. 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.

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 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-powered cars had won 71 Grands Prix, by the end of the 1992 season.

BAR and Jordan (2000–2005)

Honda RA005E Engine as supplied to BAR for 2005

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.

McLaren (2015–)

Honda returned to Formula One as an engine supplier in 2015, reviving their relationship with 1980s partner McLaren.[5] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Formula One results

(italics indicates non-works entries; bold indicates championships won)

Year Name Car Engine Tyres No. Drivers Points WCC
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
Richie Ginther
11 6th
1966 Honda R & D Company RA273 RA273E 3.0 V12 G Ronnie Bucknum
Richie Ginther
3 8th
1967 Honda R & D Company RA273
RA273E 3.0 V12 F John Surtees 20 4th
1968 Honda R & D Company RA300
RA273E 3.0 V12
RA301E 3.0 V12
RA302E 3.0 V8
David Hobbs
Jo Schlesser
John Surtees
14 6th
Joakim Bonnier Racing Team RA301 RA301E 3.0 V12 G Joakim Bonnier
19692005: Honda did not compete as a constructor.
2006 Lucky Strike Honda Racing F1 Team RA106 RA806E 2.4 V8 M 11.
Rubens Barrichello
Jenson Button
86 4th
2007 Honda Racing F1 Team RA107 RA807E 2.4 V8 B 7.
Jenson Button
Rubens Barrichello
6 8th
2008 Honda Racing F1 Team RA108 RA808E 2.4 V8 B 16.
Jenson Button
Rubens Barrichello
14 9th


Specific references:

  1. ^ "Case History". Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Honda withdraws from Formula One racing from the International Herald Tribune
  3. ^ "Global crisis ends Honda F1 dream". 5 December 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Cary, Tom (27 February 2009). "Honda buy-out gets green light". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Honda confirms they will return to F1 in 2015 to supply engines to McLaren". FOX Sports. 17 May 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Honda Archives, Honda Formula 1 Archives (Aug 1999). "Honda F1 History". Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  7. ^ Ornstein, David (2 March 2007). "Earth Car or not, Button will emit over 50 tonnes of CO2 this season". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2007. 
  8. ^ "The Official Formula 1 Website". 2 July 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "Honda keep Button & Barrichello". 19 July 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2007. 
  10. ^ "Brawn joins Honda as team principal". (Haymarket). 12 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  11. ^ "Wurz joins Honda as test & reserve driver". 10 January 2008. 
  12. ^ "Mosley: Honda will help out buyer in '09". ITV F1. 11 December 2008. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Ramsey, Jonathon (27 December 2008). "Honda F1 SOLD! to a man named Slim". AOL. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "Virgin involved in Honda F1 talks". BBC Sport. 18 February 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  15. ^ "Honda Announces Sale of the Honda Racing F1 Team" (Press release). Honda. 6 March 2009. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Noble, Jonathan (5 March 2009). "Brawn GP take over Honda Racing". Haymarket Media. Retrieved 21 March 2014. 
  17. ^ Benson, Andrew (22 August 2015). "McLaren given 105-place grid penalty".  
  18. ^ Rose, Gary (6 September 2015). "How the Italian GP unfolded".  

General references:

  • "Honda's Recovery Will Take Time"., 29 December 2007.
  • "Honda announce name for F1 team". NewsOnF1, 1 December 2005.
  • "Honda announce 2007 test driver line-up". NewsOnF1, 15 November 2006.
  • "Honda F1 reveal 2007 launch date".Sport Network 1 January 2007

External links

  • Honda F1's website
  • Honda F1 history
  • Honda Racing F1 'View Suspended'
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