Honda are reportedly planning a return to F1 in 2015. According to a Jiji Press report, Honda is reportedly working on Formula One engines for McLaren.
The Japanese car manufacturer quit F1 at the end of the 2008 season with the team sold to Ross Brawn, who changed the name to Brawn GP and went on to win the 2009 World championship.
If the rumours about the Honda-McLaren partnership are true, it would not be the first time that the pair have teamed up. Their previous partnership was between 1988 and 1992 and in that time, they won four constructors’ World Championships.
Honda may already be working on a Formula One project for 2014.
When revealing its all-new turbo V6 ‘power unit’ for next year near Paris on Monday, Renault’s Jean-Michel Jalinier said he “definitely” expects more engine makers to enter F1 under the 2014 rules.
“That’s why the number of our customers will fall in the future,” he is quoted by German website motorsport-total.com, “because there are more competitors.”
Honda, the Japanese marque that pulled out of F1 at the end of 2008 due to the global financial crisis, could be one such competitor. The German-language Speed Week reports that Frenchman Gilles Simon, Ferrari’s engine boss during the ultra-successful Jean Todt era, could already be working with Honda.
After leaving Ferrari, Simon worked for the FIA, but most recently he has been designing a turbo V6 for Craig Pollock’s intended 2014 F1 supplier Pure.
But with Pollock’s plans now collapsed, Speed Week reports that British sources suspect the newly UK-based Simon could be working on a F1 engine for Honda.
For its last F1 foray, Honda was based at Brackley, which is now the headquarters for Mercedes’ similarly Ross Brawn-led works team.
Honda is not ruling out a return to Formula One in the future.
The Japanese carmaker pulled out of the sport after the 2008 season, amid the global financial crisis and the slump in new car sales. But Honda’s head of research and development Yoshiharu Yamamoto has told autocar.co.uk that the marque still sees F1 as an attractive platform.
“On a personal level I love racing, but there is a lot involved when you are in F1 — it is the very top of auto racing and that requires a large commitment. But it is true that we do look up at those races and hope that one day we can take part again,” he said.
“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.”
His comments follow speculation F1’s 2014 switch to radical new turbo V6 engine rules could attract more car manufacturers to F1. Honda has committed to running a 1.6 litre turbo engine in the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC).
“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,” said Yamamoto.
Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn has revealed Honda Motor Company’s ”frustration” that they have not been part of this year’s success for the team.
The parent company for the Brackley-based outfit withdrew from the sport in December 2008 in the context of a dismal two previous years on the track and the worst climate for the car industry in living memory.
But the huge investment the Japanese marque had made and the hard work done by the team itself had resulted in a very fast car before Honda’s pull-out, which went on to win the first two races of the season in 2009. Cue rueful smiles from Brawn himself, and ”frustration” for Honda.
“I’m sure they were very frustrated at having to withdraw,” Brawn told the Bloomberg news agency.
“I’ve had many notes from senior people at Honda, so they are frustrated because obviously the team has moved forward, but it was a necessity for their business.”
Brawn added an insight to the negotiations during which he and other management bought out the team, saying that Honda could not be convinced of the potential for 2009.
“They’d spent an awful lot of money, hadn’t got anywhere and probably didn’t realise the potential,” he recalled.
“I’m sure if they had, they wouldn’t have gone because all this would have been Honda otherwise.”
Teams must embrace KERS technology if Formula One is to survive, Honda CEO Nick Fry has affirmed following trouble-free testing of the system in Jerez.
The Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), which are designed to store and re-use energy lost as heat through braking and other episodes, are due to be introduced next year to make Formula One more environmentally sustainable.
But several teams, led by Renault’s Flavio Briatore, have tried to delay the introduction of the systems on the grounds of safety and cost. The concerns came after a BMW Sauber mechanic received an electric shock and a battery fire at Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes Factory.
However, McLaren, Williams and Honda all ran fully functioning KERS systems at the four day test in Jerez last week and experienced no major problems.
Honda’s Nick Fry is adamant that KERS is necessary to secure the future of Formula One and has criticised those teams who want to post-pone its introduction.
“KERS is key to the future of Formula One, and unless we take major steps to make the sport more environmentally sensitive, then there is no future,” he told Forumula1.com.
“I think that the teams that are arguing against KERS have got their heads stuck in the sand because it is the future, and unless Formula One adapts we’re going to be in very serious difficulties.”
Responding to criticism that the systems will be too expensive to implement Fry added that teams need to balance their priorities if Formula One is to become more affordable for smaller teams:
“We’ve got to re-orientate our expenditure to things which are useful like KERS, but away from things which are less useful such as the more obscure aerodynamic components that we spend huge amounts of time and money on.”
Honda were the first team to run their car with a version of the new KERS system earlier in the year, and in last week’s four day test at Jerez test driver Alex Wurz drove with a fully functioning 2009 specification system, alongside Williams and McLaren who are also well advanced in their development programme.
“Every time that we run with KERS, we learn more and start to fully understand its possibilities,” explains Wurz. “It’s such an interesting challenge and one that we look forward to developing further over the next few tests.”
“The test was a critical stage in our development of KERS,” added Honda’s esteemed technical director Ross Brawn. “Although installed in a ‘mule’ car, the KERS system was fully functioning and very close to 2009 specification.”
“Alex was able to give an invaluable input into the track behaviour of our KERS system and highlight several areas we need to focus on. A very valuable test and I am extremely pleased with the performance and the progress we have made with the system.”
Some critics have argued that KERS, and its related costs, will damage the racing spectacle by promoting a gap between teams that can afford to develop the technology and tailor it to their own cars, and the smaller teams who will have to become customers of the system.
There is also a fear that some teams may not be able to afford to run their cars with the technology at all which would compromise their drivers in the race and lead to a greater field spread.
“I think KERS will improve the spectacle,” contends Fry. “From what we’ve seen with our drivers they’ve rather enjoyed using KERS because it does give very noticeable boost when you hit the button and will improve the entertainment value of the sport.”
“Even though some people are obviously less keen with KERS, I believe all the teams are genius enough to develop their own systems, and whilst there will be a bit of settling down at the beginning of the season, I’m confident that everyone will come up with their own solution.”
“This technical diversity of different solutions is at the heart of Formula One; it really is the essence of the sport to encourage technical innovation and that’s something we must not lose.”
Riccardo Patrese will be returning to Formula One today for a one-off drive courtesy of Honda. The former F1 driver, who raced from 1977 to 1993, was the first Formula 1 driver to start 250 races. Until recently, he had made the most ever race starts, a feat beaten by Honda s Rubens Barrichello earlier this season when he started his 257th Grand Prix in Turkey.
At the time, Honda extended an invitation of a guest drive to Patrese to celebrate Barrichello s new record. Today, Patrese will be taking one of last season s Honda RA107 cars around Jerez in Spain.
Honda still have a lot of work to do to prepare for next week’s Belgian Grand Prix insists British ace Jenson Button.
The Anglo-Japanese squad arrived at Valencia last week with high hopes for their improved RA108 challenger around the high-speed street circuit.
But a wrong tyre choice in qualifying saw Jenson begin the race from sixteenth place, and with little opportunity to overtake, the Briton only managed to climb three places by the chequered flag.
Honda have been testing at Monza this week to ensure they are better prepared for the sweeping low-downforce demands of Spa-Francorchamps, but Jenson, who lapped tenth quickest on the third of running, is still not happy with the balance of his car.
“We have worked on finalising the downforce packages required for Spa and Monza along with an initial study of the tyre compounds,” he confirmed.
“Although we have made some progress, the balance of the car is not where I would like it to be, particularly for Monza, and we need to analyse the data carefully to make improvements before the race weekend.”
Team Principal Ross Brawn concurred: “We have not achieved a perfect set-up and balance this week and have further work to do in analysing the data before we return for the race in two weeks time.”
“Our drivers suffered all the classic problems that we habitually experience at Monza, and without traction control, engine driveability adds another dimension to the challenge.”
Honda are hoping for intervention from the safety car in today’s European Grand Prix after a disastrous showing in qualifying left Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello languishing at the back of the field with their work cut out in the 57-lap race.
Button and Barrichello will line up sixteenth and nineteenth for the inaugural grand prix at Valencia, both drivers having run into problems in the opening knock-out qualifying session.
Button had impressed in both the Friday and Saturday practice sessions and was looking solid in Q1 on the prime hard tyres. But when the British ace swapped to the option soft tyres in the dying minutes, it all went horribly wrong and he struggled to extract any serious pace from his ill-handling RA108.
“My first run on the prime tyres was good but we simply chose the wrong tyre for my final run in Q1. I had no grip with the option and it just wasn’t very competitive for us.”
“My final run was slower than my prime run, which shouldn’t happen on a circuit which is improving all the time. I’m really disappointed as we have improved the car but we didn’t make the most of that.”
Rubens Barrichello meanwhile struggled with the balance of his car: “We were not able to find a balance on the car in practice this morning which affected our preparations for qualifying.”
“I particularly struggled with rear locking which cost me a lot of time as I wasn’t able to attack the lap. It’s very disappointing to be starting the first race here from so far back on the grid.”
Honda chief Steve Clark admits that the team’s only real hope of salvaging a decent result is if they can make up ground under a safety car period; a distinct possibility given the close proximity of the walls around the new 5.4km street circuit.
“From our grid positions the race will certainly be a challenge,” he said. “If the car is working well tomorrow the drivers will be up against slower cars ahead and we think overtaking is going to be difficult.”
“However race incidents are likely here. It could be very tricky off-line and, as we have seen from the other series, there are places from which cars are difficult to recover so safety cars are a real possibility.”
“We now need to focus on making our strategy as robust as possible to ensure we are well-placed to take advantage of any opportunities.”
Toro Rosso, Williams and Honda have revealed what they believe caused the flash fires which were seen during pit-stops at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
All three teams saw brief flash fires during one of the pit-stops and many initially thought there was a universal problem with the refuelling rig. However Honda have revealed they believe their fire was thanks to the refuelling hose not being fitted squarely onto the car.
Williams have now said that they think their problem was caused by pressure in the fuel tank which caused some excess fuel to come up inside the hose.
“We planned a two-stop race but put enough fuel in so we had the possibility to go one stop,â€ Rod Nelson, Williams chief operations engineer explained in the Williams official podcast.
“And on the basis of Coulthard’s performance against Webber – Coulthard started on the option tyre – we decided to go for it. We were nowhere by that stage anyway because of problems at the start, so we went for it with Kazuki which meant we were putting a lot more fuel in the tank than you normally would, certainly.
“It was very hot so fuel was vaporizing at a massive rate and that causes some foaming within the fuel hose. You get fuel up the vent hose and some of that splashed down into the car connector just as they took the rig off. As soon as you drive out, that splashes over the exhaust system and you have a small flash fire,â€
Toro Rosso have yet to reveal what their hypothesis is however they have confirmed they do not believe it is a problem with the refuelling rig itself. “I can confirm it was not a problem with the rig,â€ a spokesperson from the team said. “The problem has been resolved to make sure it does not happen again, but there is no further comment from our technical group.”
Jenson Button has shown he is still every bit the racer that charged through the rain-induced chaos to victory in Hungary in 2006 after delivering a sensational lap in qualifying on Saturday that well-and-truly transcended the capabilities of his Honda – one that puts him just outside the top ten for the start of today’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
A few years ago, when Button was consistently vying for podiums and contemplating a move to bigger and better things – which took the form of Williams and then Honda again – twelfth place would have been a crushing disappointment for the man from Frome. But such is Honda’s lack of performance at the moment that the British driver was struggling to conceal his delight with his assault on the time-sheets.
“I’m happy to have qualified in P12 today after a good lap on the final run in Q2 pushed me a few places up the grid,” enthused Button. “We’ve definitely made some progress with the new developments to the car and in particular the new rear suspension is working well and this has enabled us to improve the car step by step over the weekend.”
“I got the most out of the car today and it’s encouraging to see we were only three-tenths away from the top ten as it has been a while since we were that close. I’m on the dirty side of the grid, which is a disadvantage, but I am sure we can have a good race tomorrow from here nonetheless.”
Honda’s Head of Race and Test Engineering was full of praise for Button’s performance: “P12 is where we hoped to be today so, yes, we have moved a little closer to the middle order again. The new mechanical developments have brought us improved stability and that has enabled us to achieve a better balance on the car this weekend.”
“Due credit to Jenson as he delivered a particularly good lap when it counted and we have reason to feel optimistic about tomorrow’s race.”