Honda Racing F1
|Based in: Tokyo (1964), Amsterdam (1965-66), Slough (1967-68), Brackley (since 2006)|
Founded: 1948 (active 1964-1968, 2006-2008)
Principal: Soichiro Honda (1964-1968), Ross Brawn (since Nov 2007)
Technical director: Geoff Willis (Jan 2006-Feb 2006), Hiroshi Abe (Feb 2006-Dec 2006), Shuhei Nakamoto (2007)
Sporting director: Gil De Ferran (2006-Jul 2007)
Following the end of the Second World War Honda soon became world leaders in motorcycle production and racing. By 1962 their attention had turned to cars and the company arranged a low profile entrance into Formula 1 with engineer Yoshio Nakamura and a base in Amsterdam.
The first car was the Honda RA271 and American Ronnie Bucknum was the man picked to lead the challenge, despite never having driven a single seater before. His efforts were more than adequate to secure a second season and he was joined in 1965 by Richie Ginther who managed to give the team its first win in Mexico.
The switch to the 3-litre formula was not good news for Honda although the Mexico win did inspire them to keep going and Soichiro Honda, the company's chairman, agreed to fund the development of a V12 engine. The unit was extremely powerful but was always going to be simply too heavy to be truly competitive. Honda managed to recruit John Surtees to head the team, although the weight problem meant that even the former world champion could only manage a third place in South Africa. A new car, the RA300, arrived in time for Monza and Surtees took it to victory after one of those stunning slip-streaming battles for which the circuit was most famous.
For 1968 the team realised that the weight problem needed to be addressed and the team again turned to Lola for help. The car was late and instead the team entered the entirely Honda built air-cooled Honda RA302. Surtees refused to drive the thing so Honda turned to the Frenchman Jo Schlesser. Schlesser lost control of the car in the early stages of the French Grand Prix at Rouen and speared off the track, bursting into flames. Schlesser died when the magnesium-fuelled fire could not be controlled by fire marshals.
The team withdrew from F1 at the end of the season and did not return until the early 1980s as a successful supplier of turbo engines.
Return in 2006
In 2006, Honda again competed in the FIA Formula One World Championship as a wholly-owned Honda team for the first time since 1968. Honda Racing F1 Team was the new name chosen following the acquisition by Honda Motor Co. Ltd of the full 100% shareholding in B.A.R Honda – a name selected to reflect Honda’s rich and successful heritage in motorsport. Immediately in the first year as an official Honda team, Jenson Button managed to win the rainy Hungarian GP.
One year later however, things went from bad to worse. After Honda failed to secure Google Earth sponsorship, it decided to brand the livery as being environmentally friendly. While an F1 car is certainly not, the Honda RA107 wasn't fast either. It appeared that internal friction between England and Japan and the resulting departure of Geoff Willis resulted in a problematic struggle all the way through the season. In November it was announced that former Ferrari man Ross Brawn would join the team to help it back on its feet.
It quickly emerged however that Brawn entered the team with a focus on the challenging 2009 regulations. As it was already too late to have a major influence in the 2008 car, the Honda RA108 proved another catastrophic failure. Since the engine was also down on power and frozen under the regulations, Honda eventually decided to pull out of the sport on 5 December. More than 3 months later, Brawn GP was born, continuing with the same people but without Honda's financial backing and engines.
|Car designation||Race years|
|Honda RA273||1966 - 1967|
|Honda RA300||1967 - 1968|