B.A.R Honda F1
|Based in: Long Reach, Ockham, Woking, Surrey GU23 6PE, UK|
Founded: 1998 (active 1999-2005)
Chief executive officer: Craig Pollock (1998-2002), David Richards (2002-2004), Nick Fry (2005-...)
Technical Director: Adrian Reynard (1998-2002), Geoff Willis (2003-...)
Sporting Director: Gil De Ferran (2005-...)
Chief Designer Malcolm Oastler (1998-2002)
Chief Race Engineer: Craig Wilson (2004)
Managing Director: Nick Fry (2002-2004)
Much was expected of the new British American Racing team in their 1999 debut season. With financial backing from the multi-national conglomerate British American Tobacco running to £250 million over a five year programme.
The new organisation is headed by Jacques Villeneuve's former school-teacher and manager Craig Pollock who negotiated the purchase of the Tyrrell team in late 1997. The new team then announced that they would be using the Mecachrome V10 engine (renamed the Supertec V10) for the 1999 season. Perhaps unsurprisingly 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has joined rookie Ricardo Zonta to head up the driving front, while the team have taken the unusual step of outsourcing their chassis construction to Reynard. The British manufacturer has won debut races in every single seater category that it has entered until it arrived in F1. The last truly positive comment on the car was from chief designer, Malcolm Oastler who claimed to be delighted with his creation at the launch of the new team in January of 1999. As soon as the car came on track it became clear it wasn't able to fulfil the expectations. The BAR 001's performance was close to the sub-top with several good qualifying sessions but reliability was worse than any other team in F1. In the years after that, the team never had the form to compete with the top teams.
As the team's main shareholder BAT was disappointed with the performance and as new engine supplier Honda also wanted to improve Craig Pollock was moved aside to have David Richards (who was active in motor sports with ProDrive and former manager of Benetton) lead the team. The 2000 season started well in Australia with both cars finishing in the points, but it was the second half of the calendar before more points were scored as once again reliability became a problem. At the end of the year Olivier Panis was signed to partner Jacques Villeneuve for 2001 but once again the team was unable to string together the reliability needed to consistently pick up points.
After securing exclusive use of the Honda engine for 2003, Richards signed Williams' technical director Geoff Willis to design the new BAR. He also packed off veteran Panis to Toyota when given the chance to sign Jenson Button to a long-term contract, while also stating that the team could no longer afford to pay such a high salary to Villeneuve (at the time the second highest paid driver in F1). Negotiations with Villeneuve dragged on through the season but without resolution and the team announced before the end of the season that test driver (and Honda protégé) Takuma Sato would partner Button in 2004. Villeneuve then pulled out of the season ending Japanese GP saying he did not have the motivation to drive, leaving Sato to make an early debut. At the end of 2004, the team also received an award that year for their revolutionary carbon cased gearbox which greatly helped their 2004 successes.
However after the good results, Honda wanted more and took a partial stake in the team to have more influence in the design of the complete car. As the Japanese firm wanted a team chief solely devoted to F1, Dave Richards was moved aside in favour of Nick Fry. 2005 saw a hard start for the team as reliability problems chased the car, but Jenson Button was able to score a long series of points during the second half of the season.
For 2006, the team heads to the championship with Jenson Button who bought out of his Williams contract for a reported 18m pounds. The talented Brit is joined by former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello.
Because Honda had purchased the remaining 55% stake of British American Tobacco at the end of 2005, the team was re-branded and continued to live on as Honda's official works team.
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