Honda Racing F1 Team was a Formula One team run by Honda. The team was based in Brackley, United Kingdom, and uses the facilities of former British American Racing, which Honda fully acquired in 2005. Engines were built at the Honda R&D facility in Tochigi, Japan. The Honda team was led by Nick Fry and had drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. The team began by using the same predominantly white livery that Honda used in the sport during the 1960s, but has since switched to a more environmentally friendly livery. The car entry for the 2006 season was the RA106 with the RA806E V8 Honda Engine, consistent with the nomenclature from its previous two generations of F1 competition. Honda F1 pulled out of Formula 1 in 2009 and has since been bought by Ross Brawn, incarnated as Brawn GP. In early 2010, after dominating the 2009 F1 calendar and producing a World Champion in Jenson Button, a significant chunk was purchased by Mercedes-Benz and the team has since been rebranded as Mercedes GP, this development from the remains of Honda F1 marks Mercedes' return to Formula 1 since the 1950's.
Honda surprised everyone by entering Formula One Grand Prix racing in 1963, just three years after producing their first road car. They began development of the Honda RA271 in 1962 and startled the European-dominated Formula One garages with their all-Japanese factory team. More startling was the fact that Honda built their own engine and chassis, something only Scuderia Ferrari and British Racing Motors (BRM) had previously done. In only their second year of competition, Honda reached the coveted top step of the podium with Ginther's win in the Honda RA272 at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. For the new 3.0L rules from 1966, Honda introduced the Honda RA273. Although the RA273's engine was a well-designed, 360bhp V12, the car was let down by a relatively heavy and unwieldy in-house chassis. Honda returned to the winner's circle in 1967 with the new Honda RA300, driven by John Surtees. This won the 1967 Italian Grand Prix in only its first F1 race. The RA300 chassis was partly designed by Lola in the UK, and this resulted in the car being nicknamed the Hondola by the motoring press. Unfortunately this was the last truly competitive car that Honda produced for F1 in the 1960s; the following year's Honda RA301 only reached the podium twice and Honda withdrew from F1 at the end of the 1969 Formula One season. Honda backed up their Grand Prix victories by dominating the 1966 Formula 2 season, winning every race that year with Jack Brabham's team. Honda competed as a constructor in 47 Grands Prix in the 1960s.
Honda as an engine supplier, 1983-1992
Honda returned to Formula One in 1983 Formula One season as an engine supplier for the Spirit (racing team) and stayed in the sport for a decade, at various times teaming with Team Lotus, Team McLaren, Tyrrell Racing and WilliamsF1. Honda engines were considered the ticket to Grand Prix glory due to their power, reliability, and winning track record. Honda supplied its engines to six constructor championships, as well as five driver championships (3 by Ayrton Senna, 1 by Nelson Piquet, and another by Alain Prost, before dropping out of the sport again. Honda-powered cars had won 71 Grands Prix, by the end of the 1992 season.
Aborted F1 project, 1999
From 1993 to 1998, Honda's only presence in F1 was as an engine supplier through its associates Mugen, who supplied engines to teams such as Ligier, Prost Racing Jordan. Mugen-powered cars had won 4 Grands Prix by the end of the 1999 season. In 1998, Honda was seriously considering entry in Formula One as a constructor, going as far as producing an engine and hiring Harvey Postlethwaite as technical director and designer. A test car, RA099, designed by Postlethwaite and built by Dallara, was made and tested during 1999, driven by Jos Verstappen. At a test of this car, Postlethwaite suffered a fatal heart attack, the project was later shelved and Honda decided to merely recommit as a full works engine supplier to BAR, starting in 2000.
Partnership with British American Racing
Honda returned yet again in the 2000 Formula One season, providing engines for British American Racing (BAR). They also supplied engines to Jordan Racing for the 2001 Formula One season and the 2002 Formula One season. This would lead to a battle for the right to use the Honda engines in the long term. In the 2003 Formula One season, despite their better showing in the previous 2 seasons, Honda dropped Jordan Motorsports. In mid-November 2004 Honda purchased 45% of the BAR team.
In September 2005 Honda purchased the remaining 55% share of BAR to become the sole owner. BAT continued as title sponsor with the Lucky Strike brand in 2006, but have withdrawn from Formula 1 for 2007. It has been decided that team would race under the name Honda Racing F1 Team in 2006.
Despite showing promise pre-season (with the RA806 being considered one of the most powerful of the new V8 engines), Honda demonstrated fairly mediocre performance at the start of the 2006 season despite a pole position at the 2006 Australian Grand Prix. Prior to their win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, they had only accumulated a single podium finish, a third place from Jenson Button at the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix. The main reason for lack of form (the team was expecting to challenge for the championship) has been down to reliability, with the team dropping out of contention for race victories many times. Pit-stop problems also hampered the team early on, in one case effectively ruining Jenson Button's chances for a good result and possible podium at the 2006 San Marino Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello has not had a good season for the team, down to the fact that he has had to get used to the new brakes and traction control, after moving from a very successful six year stint at Ferrari. Nevertheless Rubens had out-qualified his team-mate in the final four races.
Honda had a particularly poor showing at the British Grand Prix in 2006. In particular, Jenson Button was eliminated after the first portion of qualifying after the team failed to get him out for a second run. This resulted in his qualifying 19th. He then retired with an oil leak. In light of this poor form, it was announced that Geoff Willis would be adopting a factory-based role to concentrate on aerodynamics. Following the appointment of Senior Technical Director Shuhei Nakamoto over Willis' head and Mariano Alperin-Bruvera as Chief Aerodynamicist Willis' position appears difficult, and reports indicate that he has left the team. At the Hungaroring fortunes changed. Barrichello and Button qualified third and fourth, though Button had to drop ten places, following an engine change. In an incident-packed race, Jenson came from fourteenth on the grid to win his first race, with Barrichello finishing fourth. After this win, the team's performance went up noticeably, displaying consistency (if not overall performance) arguably better than championship leaders Ferrari and Renault. Button scored as many points as championship runner up Michael Schumacher in the last third of the season. Both drivers earned points finishes in almost all the remaining races (with the exception of Barrichello's 12th place finish in Japan), with the season ending high note with Button's 3rd place finish in the the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix-less than a second behind 2nd place Fernando Alonso - after having to start from 14th on the grid.
On November 15, 2006, it was announced that long time BAR Honda and Honda test driver, Anthony Davidson is heading to Super Aguri F1 to race alongside Takuma Sato. He will be replaced by ex-Red Bull racer Christian Klien for the 2007 season and possibly beyond.
2007 and post BAT sponsorship
With tobacco sponsorship in F1 now in full decline, 2007 also sees the end of British American Tobacco's sponsorship of Honda, allowing the team to choose a livery that reflects their corporate image. Unveiled on February 26, the RA107 car features minimal corporate advertising, instead focusing on Honda's environmental desires, with a livery depicting the planet Earth against the black background of space. On the rear wing is the web address of environmental awareness website myearthdream.com.
This site was launched February 27, 2007, immediately after the official launch of the 2007 car.
Reactions to the new Honda livery have been mixed, with Friends of the Earth accusing the team of being hypocritical, given how polluting F1 is, but there are hopes this new dynamic look will also show on track with some fans of Honda saying this is their best year yet for a championship.
The team's form in pre-season testing was patchy, and Jenson Button urged the squad to improve. The RA-107's sheer lack of pace was evident at the season-opening the 2007 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 18th, with Button and Rubens Barrichello qualifying 14th and 17th respectively (well behind the 'customer' Super Aguri F1] team, whose car is effectively an update of last year's Honda, the RA-106). Barrichello finished the race in 11th place, with Button in 15th after receiving a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Grand Prix wins
- 1965 Mexican Grand Prix
- 1967 Italian Grand Prix
- 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix
- 1968 Italian Grand Prix
- 2006 Australian Grand Prix
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