Debate: Who’s to blame at Honda?

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Honda nose, Fuji Speedway, 2007 | HondaRacingF1.comHonda will end the year behind Super Aguri if they don’t out-score them by three points over the next two races. Given that they’ve only scored two so far, it’s not looking good.

The season has been a catastrophe for the Japanese team and drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.

What’s gone wrong? Who’s to blame? And can they turn it around for next year?

Honda ended 2006 on a high. Button out scored every other driver over the final six races and took his maiden win at the Hungaroring.

But the RA107 has been a disastrous car and the attempts to improve it have yielded little. A planned upgrade for the Fuji Speedway was scrapped when it made little effect on the car’s performance.

Designer Shuhei Nakamoto has shouldered some of the responsibility for the car’s problems, admitting his background in motorcycle engineering (where aerodynamics are used solely to reduce drag and not to generate downforce) did not make him best suited for designing an F1 car. So why is Nakamoto still doing the same job.

Button has said that the difficult year will make the team stronger: “It’s about not making the same mistakes again. The same goes for the team as well as for every individual. If you make the same mistakes again, you are a fool. It’s that simple. We should learn from our slips and become stronger.”

But should Button carry some of the blame as well? Michael Schumacher is always held up as a reference point for drivers wishing to direct the progress of their teams. Would he have spotted the Nakamoto problem and had something done about it?

And what about Barrichello – surely the most experienced driver in F1 – soon to become the most experienced F1 driver ever – could have seen the team were heading in the wrong direction?

Arguably both drivers have wasted chances to score vital morale-boosting points for the team in wet weather races.

What is remarkable about Honda’s reaction to their dismal season has been the lack of high-profile firings. Not least of which Nick Fry, under whose stewardship the team took a notable backward step in competitiveness in 2005 (as BAR) after a strong 2004. Is he the right man for the job?

Could the team’s wretched season even jeapordise Honda’s position in the sport?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on “Debate: Who’s to blame at Honda?”

  1. I’m afraid it’s all my fault. I predicted a Button championship this year – and I should have known that would put the evil eye on his chances. Oh, woe is me… :(

  2. i blame the paint work…!

  3. the main problem is they have to carry the weight of the whole world on their chassis :-)

  4. If the rumours are to be believed, you have to blame the chap who signed off an incorrectly calibrated wind tunnel in order to please his impatient Japanese paymasters.

  5. my exact same sentiment milos

  6. I’m a friend of Clive’s and WE brought on Honda’s downfall but
    milos is right also, the car will return to speed when they repaint it!

  7. I agree that the paint scheme is to blame. Seriously, what team members or drivers would want to give 110% for a team that races cars that look like that? And with the super-cornball slogan “My Earth Dream” plastered on it? Nobody! ;)

  8. Shuhei Nakamoto is definitely responsible – these guys are one of the biggest manufacturers in motorsport, and they put a guy who makes motorbikes in charge of making cars?

  9. Goofball paintscheme aside, it looks like its down to aero. Thumbs down to Honda and their use of only a single tunnel…and thumbs up to BMW, who used a single tunnel plus CFD software to proof the tunnel data.

  10. I wonder how much that earth decal really weighs… You can’t think that’s the entire reason the car did poorly, though, or they would have peeled the decal off and repainted the chassis without the microfiche scheme.

    Blame must lie in several places, including the drivers, who seem to take their situation a bit too lightly.

    What really concerns me though, is the last question in the article, because Honda and Toyota have now created a terrible image for the Japanese automobile in Formula 1. Toyota could have at least tried to repeat their “run light just to lead for five laps” publicity stunt at Fuji.

  11. I’m sure Honda use CFD data/models too. Doesn’t matter, though, if the tunnel data is incorrectly calibrated.

    Super Aguri will be praying they don’t have to take that dog of a chassis next year. If they beat Honda this year maybe that’ll be their “reward”!

  12. Nick Fry is responsible. Ever since he took over the car has gone backwards!

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