Honda: “It would be nice to go back” to F1

2012 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

The Honda name could return to Formula One according to head of research and design Yoshiharu Yamamoto.

Yamamoto told Autocar “it is true that we do look up at those races and hope that one day we can take part again”.

He added: “I do not personally think we can just go straight back immediately, but there is potential for the rules to change and attract us. I follow the rules, certainly, and if they present an opportunity then it would be nice to go back.”

Honda last competed in F1 in 2008, before pulling the plug on its F1 effort. Its former team won the constructors’ championship as Brawn in 2009, with driver Jenson Button claiming the drivers’ title, before it was taken over by Mercedes.

Honda enjoyed prolonged success in the eighties and nineties as an engine supplier to Williams and McLaren. Before that it ran its own F1 team in the sixties, winning twice.

The Japanese car manufacturer is an IndyCar engine supplier. The American single-seater series switched to using V6 turbocharged engines this year, as F1 will do in 2014.

Honda are also making a return to the World Touring Car Championship at Suzuka next week.

2012 F1 season

Browse all 2012 F1 season articles

Image © Honda F1 Racing

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

62 comments on “Honda: “It would be nice to go back” to F1”

  1. hope they could supply 2014 engine maybe for mclaren.

    1. There is nowhere near enough time to develop an engine.

      1. The Miserable Wanderer
        10th October 2012, 16:27

        Well, they are already(read turbocharged) up there with an indycar spec engine….how better ready can a Jap works company be? after all, they are the pioneers of the ‘Just In Time’ concept!

        1. Is the indycar-spec engine exactly equal to f1?

          1. As far as I am aware, they’re not even close.

          2. @chicaneF1, no it has bigger displacement and a lower rev limit amongst other things from memory, however the knowledge of turbocharging is there and Honda have V4 MotoGP N/A engines that rev to 18,000 rpm and have a 250cc per cylinder swept volume as against 266.6 cc for the new F1 engine, combining the knowledge used in these 2 engines would allow Honda to design an engine to the new rule before lunch. The energy recovery and electric drive systems would take longer to perfect despite their experience with hybrids.

          3. The Indy engine is a bigger displacement engine. While I’m sure there could be some carryover components or atleast ideas in the R&D department, it would need to be a whole new program for a potential F1 engine.

          4. @hohum er… before lunch?

    2. When I had a tour of the MTC in June Mclaren had a car already with a 1600 Honda engine in the back

  2. Didn’t the Honda source qualify that statement by saying they will have to win in WTCC before going back to F1?

    1. That’s what Autosport are reporting.

      1. Thought I saw a tweet from one of the Autosport guys saying that. Thanks.

      2. @prisoner-monkeys Autocar. The full quote is in the link in second paragraph.

        1. It’s currently Autosport’s lead story. That’s where I got it from.

    2. That’s like saying I have to finishing washing the dishes before I go climb Mt. Everest. Non sequitur.

      1. Yes, “finish.”

        1. Drat. I like WTCC and all, but I’d rather see them in F1.

          Granted, I can see their reasons.

  3. Well they could start out as an engine supplier with a manufacturer-backed team (sounds wise), but it sounds more likely they’ll they ride, once again, as Honda Racing F1 team!

    1. The quickest and easiest way in would be to buy into or buy out an existing team so that all the infrastructure and personnel are already in place.

      1. True that. That just leaves the question, which one? Personally, I’d see it best they take over one of the backmarkers. Despite Honda’s performance in their last couple of years, taking over a non-competitive team can only bring that team forward. Sure, Honda’s gonna want full control of the team, and they’ll probably pull out (after some time) at the stroke of a pen. But by the time they do, they’d have hopefully built a strong foundation for the future ala Sauber.

        1. It would amuse me to no end, if they bought back the Brackley outfit in a few years when Mercedes tires of trying and pulls out of F1.

          1. If that happens, I see a sitcom coming.

      2. The Miserable Wanderer
        10th October 2012, 16:58

        you are kidding about the infrastructure and personnel part right? Honda setup a 1000-strong factory overnight when it had to meet a sudden demand for city car production. They wouldn’t need to buy out a team for its infra or employees, the only reason they will, is because FIA is currently taking non-friendly stance as far as manufacturers’ F1 application is concerned!

        1. Formula 1 cars are nowhere near city cars. They need specialised staff and facilities to produce them. Having an under-qualified designer – Shuhei Nakamoto – is arguably what caused Honda’s problems last time.

      3. It’s extremely unlikely given their massive rivals at home, but perhaps buying Toyota’s old facilities would be a reasonable move?

        Having said that, it’s hard to imagine a new team coming in as a manufacturer now, I think supplying a team would be a better move. I’m sure Mclaren are keeping their options open, and I wonder if Marussia could be tempted as well. They’ve a working partnership with Mclaren, and it’s quite evident that the Cosworth engine really isnt doing them any favours.

    2. davidnotcoulthard
      10th October 2012, 13:31

      As Tyrrell?

  4. Good to hear that. With requirement of long term commitement to engine suppliers for sustainable engine cost, however, I think there’s little room for Honda in F1 for several years. Only chance would come when Renault decides to withdraw from F1.

  5. Would be good to have them back, as long as there are no crappy tree-hugging colour schemes this time…wasn’t the guy who’s now managing Lewis Hamilton responsible for that?

    I wonder what rule changes he’s looking for? More freedom in engine size and configuration? Greater hybrid power?

    1. Greater hybrid power? Quite possibly, that certainly fits in with their style.

      I hope they come back, but only if they are actually committed to it.

      1. Greater hybrid power? Quite possibly, that certainly fits in with their style.

        That sounds more like Toyota’s game.

    2. davidnotcoulthard
      10th October 2012, 13:33

      I think the ’08 livery’s fine, it’s just that the text are written on the wrong car (An F1 car). The ’07 livery, though……….

      Maybe they’ll use a livery designed by BAT.

      1. Maybe they’ll use a livery designed by BAT.

        Don’t get my hopes up please, I know it just can’t happen. *sob*

    3. If the engine switch actually happens in 2014 and if Cosworth pull the plug on their V6 engine development (which seems more than likely at the moment) Honda might see a good opportunity in returning to the sport as the 4th engine provider. They run the same V6 turbo configuration in IndyCar so, developing an evolution of that under F1 rules and regulations could certainly be a decent option for them as it would involve lower costs than building it from scratch and they already have at least a clue about how those engines behave on a racetrack / how to get the most of them. And they certainly have the team and know-how to do so.

      It’s good news, especially in the light of VW announcing they will not make a bid to enter the sport, but it would be even better if they were to decide on buying one of the “up-for-sale” establishments and rebuild it as a Honda factory team. I always thought their effort in the 2000s was not what it should have been and that their F1 exit was premature. Brawn proved there was at least SOME potential there and that makes me wonder how 2009 would have panned out for them. And besides that, I’d choose Honda over Marussia or HRT anyday.

      1. @tony031r

        Absolutely agree with your thoughts. They should start of as an engine supplier again. And with all their existing knowledge on the V6 Turbos, for a company like Honda, if they put their minds to it, they can get an engine ready for 2014.

        If they do enter the sport in 2014, the only teams they could potentially be supplying is HRT and Marrussia yes? Or is there any truth in this?

        Anyways, do we know if Mclaren already have a contract with Mercedes for 2014?

        1. If they do enter the sport in 2014, the only teams they could potentially be supplying is HRT and Marrussia yes? Or is there any truth in this?

          @jaymenon10 – This is a problem indeed and I truly doubt Honda will go through all the fuss in order to supply just two teams – coincidentally the worst establishments on the grid. However, as I said before, they might not need to build and develop an engine from scratch as they already have a platform for it. That should, at least in theory, translate into lower supplying costs, something which might tempt the midfield teams, especially Force India and Sauber. Or they could buy Force India altogether and turn it into a Honda works team…

          I doubt McLaren will jump the boat as soon as Honda get back into the sport though. They will want some confirmation on those engines’ performance first.

    4. “as long as there are no crappy tree-hugging colour schemes this time”

      If you want proof of Honda’s fundamental mismanagement, look no further than this. At the end of 2006, Honda were looking good. Jenson Button had won his first race and scored more points in the second half of the year than almost anyone else. With Lucky Strike leaving then team at the end of the year, sponsors should have been falling over one another to put their name on the car … and yet, nothing happened. Somewhere and somehow, something along the line went seriously wrong at Brackley.

  6. I doubt they will come back any time within foreseeable future.

  7. I see a great potential for electric car racing in the near future. Honda should invest in it. Perhaps they can have the edge at this new category. I believe it will be very interesting to follow the evolution of these cars and they will bring those technological developments to consumers.

    1. Silent racing with 4-hour recharging pit stops every 3 laps….sounds great….lol, just teasing.

      1. Actually the cars produce a metallic sound, which I think kinda cool, futuristic. The power cell is replaced real quick, similar as it was refueling F1 car in the past. Plus, the power cell technology will evolve fast. Remember how cellular phone batteries was 15 years ago? Another thing. The kers technology will evolve a lot further as well. I don’t think it will take too long for electric race cars be able to run as fast as F1 cars and run for like half an hour without replacing the power cell.

        1. I have the Galaxy S3, and I can say that I need Jesus to magic air into electricity some days ;)

          1. No, you need a Nokia Lumia too magic electricity through the air ;)

        2. Ya, I was truly just teasing and you make some good points. I know that there is a lot on the drawing board in terms of electric power. Just read an article in last weekend’s newspaper about using super-conductors to store energy and perhaps thus doing away with batteries in electric cars altogether. And I know one thing about electric motors…you’ve got all your torque available immediately, so I’m sure electric race cars could accelerate like the dickens. And I absolutely can envision EP development skyrocketing if a bunch of clever teams such as we have in F1 were to put their nose’s to the grindstone in a competitive atmosphere (not that that isn’t going on right now amongst several large companies globally).

  8. I don’t want them back as a manufacturer. As an engine supplier and possibly even with a large share supporting a privateer team would be okay, but they’ve shown to be too ruthless with cutting all ties to be trusted with full ownership.

  9. They should go back into WEC. It’s ripe for the taking. If you do it right, like Audi, you can get much more brand-burnishment for far less money. And even if you don’t succeed, you dont have the specter of your cars running around in the back of a 24+ car field, getting lapped by rival brands.

  10. I’d love to have them back, the more manufacturers there are in Formule 1, the better, period! They dominated the sport the last turbo engines were last used and I bet they want to prove their worth after last time. After all, they’ve got a lot to prove in F1!

    1. They dominated as an engine supplier, not as a manufacturer. People remember Honda for the success they had with McLaren and Williams. What makes you think that setting up their own team again would be a better idea. Look how it ended up last time out. As soon as they fully bought out BAR (which was doing pretty good by the way scoring podiums regularly with JB) the performance of the team went down year by year.

      I say Honda, stick to what you’re good at. Make a great engine and leave the racing to pros. They will make you look good for less money.

  11. In truth, Honda pulled out a year too early

  12. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    10th October 2012, 17:07

    I read a Mc Laren Honda maybe? ha ha would be nice to see them in white and red again. Probably Lewis would cry to get a seat back in a White and Red Mc Laren, having him with the yellow helmet driving it…

  13. I might be the only one thinking this, but I would really like to tell them (as well as BMW) “screw you.”

    1. @dennis I understand why there’s resentment towards these teams for pulling out. But at least Honda and BMW sold their teams on for someone else to race.

      Whereas Toyota, who you don’t mention, pulled out entirely, didn’t give their entry to anyone, and even left chassis they’d designed for the 2010 season unraced. I would say they are more deserving of criticism than Honda and BMW.

      1. And you can hardly blame any of them for leaving in the middle of one of the most serious financial crises the world has ever seen. To expect them to stay and to resent them for leaving is incredibly selfish.

        1. @prisoner-monkeys In your opinion. Others would question why they made an unsustainable commitment and quit when the going got tough. Not all of their manufacturer rivals did: Mercedes, for example.

          And Toyota’s departure seemed to be motivated more by their conspicuous lack of success than the economic situation. Their WEC project began fairly soon after their F1 departure and they’ve built a WRC car too.

          1. @keithcollantine – In retrospect, those commitments were unsustainable. But at the time, only a fringe group was preaching fiscal caution. While you can’t really assign a single date as to when the recession actually started (ie “yesterday was fine; today we are in recession”) because it took place over time, one of the reasons why it was so devastating was because it happened so quickly and spread out just as rapidly. When BMW invested in Sauber in 2006, I very much doubt that their board of directors were closely examining predictions of sub-prime lending and the housing bubble in the United States two years from that date. And if they were, they probably thought they were insulated from it, mostly because you could put every economist in the world end-to-end and still never come to a conclusion.

            What I’m really trying to say is that when those manufacturers made the decision to enter Formula 1 when they did, they could probably justify the expense and the commitment. I believe that BMW and Honda probably would have continued in Formula 1 if not for the recession – after all, Honda took on Ross Brawn, who convinced them to give up on the RA108 early on and build a car for the 2009 season as soon as the regulations became available. They agreed to it, and the project would have worked, but then it was discovered just how deeply Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac had managed to dig themselves, and they sent economic shockwaves around the world, and threw the global economy into disarray.

      2. +1,000,000

        The great shame is that Toyota chasis was a cracker. I dare say they would have been mixing it up amongst the front runners in 2010 had they raced.

        Also, if I were Jarno Trulli, or Timo Glock, I’d never forgive them.

      3. @keithcollantine, quite right but in Toyotas defense, with Bernie and CVC taking billions of dollars out of F1 we can no longer expect teams to behave as sporting gentlemen, F1 rightly or wrongly is a business and we cannot criticise them for making business-like decisions.

      4. @keithcollantine
        While that is true, and to be honest, I simply forgot to mention Toyota, I don’t think you can compare these cases. Honda and BMW bought existing Formula 1 teams, raced them and then abandonded ship when things didn’t look so bright anymore.
        Toyota entered their good old Cologne racing base, if I recall correctly, which you can’t and shouldn’t simply sell off just so.

        The economy was a nice excuse, but let’s face it, the last few years for Honda didn’t exactly run according to plan.

        1. Yeah I too don’t get the resentment towards a company that comes in and out of F1. F1 is advertising for them, and once that advertising no longer gleens more impact to the bottom line than it costs, it’s usually time to reconsider. Companies have always felt a certain impact from being in F1, and then a change to said impact throughout their tenure in F1, for all kinds of reasons.

          When tires were less degrady and much more durable and predictable, a single tire maker begged for competition to come into F1 so that we would talk about tires. Tires from a single maker that don’t affect the outcomes of the races like they do today, don’t get talked about and so the tire maker feels no impact from being in F1, and leans toward pulling out.

          In defence of Toyota et al…there is of course the global recession as pointed out above, which is going to affect car sales globally which is going to negatively affect the amount of money available for advertising. All kinds of companies outside of the automobile industry have less justifiable advertising dollars now than they did before, and what dollars there are are under a microscope. Companies have a responsibility to shareholders, and I think most of them would prefer to see dividends from their investments in the company over seeing them on an F1 track. ie. it’s not just a few heads at Toyota waking up and deciding one day that they don’t want to play with race cars anymore (because they aren’t winning, or they just don’t feel like it). There are many factors in play.

          The likes of Toyota would also be considering the direction F1 is going at the time. The threat of a breakaway series, under FOTA, could not have sounded good to their shareholders. Nor would the instability in the F1 rules, which keeps costs up, have helped companies who were tempted to reconsider their need/imact of being in F1. Nor would the concept that existed for a time that there would not be a race in North America, when Indy was done and Montreal was looking to be toast as well until BE backed off on his high financial demands. Toyota, Honda, and BMW sell one huge whack of cars here in NA.

          And these companies do play in other disciplines of racing even when they aren’t in F1…so it’s not like they are fickle about racing. But F1 is unique…and by far the most costly. And was obviously behaving in an unsustainable way. And imho, the MS/Ferrari way, with such heavy skewing toward one driver on the most established team, made for a near impossible target to tackle without spending a fortune. When teams complained of said skewing, they were told by Max and Bernie, ‘it’s up to you to compete.’ So then teams have to decide…try to compete against an elephant in the room, or concede to a room full of shareholders that want to make money, that the cost isn’t worth the gain.

          One other comment…Jacques Villeneuve and a group of investors he put together were the last to attempt to enter F1 a few years back using the last Toyota chassis while it was still relevant, and when the FIA/F1 had implied they wanted a 13th team. Bottom line, JV and his team, and the 2 other groups that were vying for the last spot on the grid, were left, after doing their presentations to the FIA in Paris, like they(FIA) never really actually had a serious intent to take on a 13th team after all. JV left feeling like they all wasted a lot of time and energy trying to get into F1. ie. it’s not always about what a company, or a group want to do…it’s also about what the FIA and F1 want, which can affect companies decisions. The Toyota chassis was there for the taking but it was actually the FIA that thwarted it’s continued use. So Toyota shouldn’t be blamed for theoretically not doing it the Honda or BMW way. It takes two (and sometimes more) to tango.

  14. I wouldn’t mind seeing another manufacturer in F1, but they didn’t exactly set the world on fire in 2007-08, did they?

    2006 Button won a race though, I believe.

  15. jameshuntleydavidson
    10th October 2012, 23:32

    Some bloke who works for Honda says, ““This is my personal view – not that of Honda – but I feel the first thing we must do is win in the WTCC, and then perhaps we can look further afield,”. okay that’s an obvious platform to return to F1.

    How many years will this first step alone take?

    Plus as head of R&D, I would be saying this too. The pinnacle of prototype motorsport….of course you’d want to be in F1, but they sold their team for $1 to Brawn who then took their car to win a WDC and Constructors championship. And this following a reported R&D spend on the 2009 car of $1bn. Gotta be the most humiliating ill timed withdrawal from a sport ever.

    Not a prayer they’ll be making engines in 2014 – probably not by 2018

    1. There is however no guarantee that Honda would have had the same level of success as Brawn. Though they had to modify the design to hold the Mercedes engine, it was more powerful than the Honda unit.

      I do like to think that they would have won it though.

  16. They would be a good manufacturer to have back and hopefully keep commerical interest alive in Japa and the Far East at large. Clearly the fans still love it over there but without a team to really keep things bouyant it’s difficult to imagine a long term Japanese involvement in F1.

Comments are closed.