Is Honda set to shake up F1 engine scene?

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An increasing amount of rumours from various sources are pointing to the return of Honda into Formula One. All known facts and expectations point to the Japanese firm supplying Honda V6 turbo engines to McLaren.

It is known for some time now that Honda is investigating a return to Formula One since the 2014 engine regulations have become public. The all new engine formula that will see smaller V6 turbocharged engines as of next year is seen as a challenge and may be considered more relevant to road technology. Recently, Honda's CEO even confirmed the company is "investigating the new engine formula as seriously as possible".

At the Spanish GP, it also emerged that McLaren has opted not to take up the option of Mercedes engines for 2015. Since this year, McLaren is considered a paying engine customer by Mercedes, a deal that was agreed back when Mercedes opted to take over Brawn GP and start its own team. Up until that time, Mercedes was a shareholder in McLaren, but Ron Dennis' push to start a sports car division is thought to have sped up the split.

The deal also includes Mercedes engines for McLaren during 2014, but further engines from Stuttgart to Woking now appear unlikely. Either McLaren start negotiations with one of the current suppliers, or they already know they'll be working with Honda for 2015. The latter seems the most likely, with some journalists claiming the deal was done months ago.

Another source close to Honda today hinted that Honda is already preparing to officially confirm its return to the sport. It will become unavoidable at some point, and it really looks like the best option for McLaren.

While it's of course premature and speculation, one can also ask how Honda will tackle their possible return to F1. Is the company going to swallow all costs of developing an entirely new drivetrain by itself, is McLaren willing to invest, or will the Japanese firm be looking into more customers? By that time though, it's more than likely that most teams will have signed a multi-year engine deal for the V6 engines.

Whichever the scenario turns out to be, Honda would be a very welcome engine supplier that could help F1 re-establish itself on the engine front after too many years of unmodified V10 engines.

Steven De Groote