It’s exactly the news the team needed after an appalling season that ranks among the team’s worst.
In recent years Honda have been accused of flattering to deceive in pre-season testing. They made a noticeable effort to play down their testing performance before 2007 got under way, but nothing could have prepared anyone for the shocking season they did have:
2006: 86 points, 4th in constructors’ championship
2007: 6 points, 8th in constructors’ championship (NB. McLaren excluded)
As if this wasn’t bad enough, it coincided with a radical PR campaign to raise the profile of environmental issues. The sponsorless car was painted in the form of a gigantic globe, so you could hardly miss them even if they spent much of the season scrapping among the Spykers.
Watching the Hondas this year brought back memories of 1999 when they campaigned as BAR. Their controversial paint schemes made them impossible to miss, as did their wretched performances.
They at least managed to score points in 2007. Well, Jenson Button did, largely thanks to a solid drive in wet weather at Shanghai. But he’d dropped the ball in the two other wet races at the Nurburgring and Fuji Speedway that had provided excellent opportunities for the Briton to score.
He at least fared better than team mate Rubens Barrichello who completed a season without scoring for the first time in his long career.
Button was the stoic underdog of the year, and although Barrichello had the upper hand on him when the car was at its worst early in the season, is was Button that dragged the best performances out of the unloved RA107. At the final races his engineers stuck a lighter inside the cockpit to jokingly suggest that Button could burn the car at the end of the race. But the car didn’t even get that far.
Often the RA107 looked scarcely any faster than last year’s car. The season might have started better had they been able to use the 2006 car but that went to Super Aguri who beat Honda with it for most of the early races.
The arrival of Brawn for next year is a boost but the Japanese team must acknowledge that there can be no sacred cows. That especially goes for Honda’s own Shuhei Nakamoto, the designer who (rightly or wrongly) was given the task of designing the RA107 after the dismissal of Geoff Willis.
Whether the team can make sufficient progress next year to keep Button on board remains to be seen. And how will Barrichello gel with his old Ferrari technician? Expect interesting developments at Honda over the winter.