News broken by the BBC that Honda may return to F1 as early as 2015 has raised many eyebrow in the Sett. It’s a tentative link-up, but one that could work for a variety of reasons.
Honda have stated that they were “studying” the option of returning to Formula One thanks to the introduction of new engine rules for 2014. Downsizing from V8s to V6s with turbos, plus the increase in the use KERS technology, is an attractive propostition for a car manufacturer. Energy recovery systems are the new marketing tool to get consumers to buy vehicles – the days of all-out horsepower are long gone.
Speaking of marketing tools, during its last venture into the sport Honda also had Jenson Button on its books. His profile was raised significantly in Japan thanks to this, he has a Japanese girlfriend, and also named his triathlon team Ichiban (Japanese for “Number One”).
It would be easy to make the Brit the face of the project once again. Add Sergio Perez into the mix and you’ve got a potentially larger slice of the market in South America. Job done.
But the main reason might not be coming from Honda themselves.
McLaren have been moving away from Mercedes since that manufacturer announced it’s intentions of returning full-time in 2010. When that happened, McLaren went from being the works team to a customer – all of a sudden, they were on the back foot. An announcement that engines would be free of charge up until 2012 means this season the team will pay for the powerplants they’ve help develop for nearly 20 years. The divorce proceedings were well and truly underway.
Then Mercedes signed Lewis Hamilton, making it feel like they got the child in a custody battle. Continuing the relationship analogy, the Honda deal might be a poorly advised rebound with a childhood sweetheart.
There might be no substance to this story whatsoever. There’s certainly a possibility, but statements have been issued already. A McLaren spokesman said: “We never discuss media rumours about potential partners”, while new Executive Director at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, said: “We are looking for a long-term engine supplier relationship with McLaren-Mercedes”. And why not? They’re one of the top 3 teams in the sport.
We ourselves are looking at it in terms of nostalgia. McLaren-Honda was a succesful partnership in a golden age – if it returns, it’s yet another retro combination that joins Williams-Renault on the grid.
Now, if they would only tease us about bringing back the red and white…