After months of rumor, amidst high expectations, McLaren have formally announced their deal with Honda. This deal according to Martin Whitmarsh will ensure McLaren’s position as a ‘Top Team’ in Formula 1. A return of any manufacturer will normally signify the return of good times, but Honda’s return adds more drama. Isn’t it? McLaren - Honda have a long history, this was one good partnership that not only threatened other Drivers/Teams on the grid, but also created factions within the Team..
So what does the history say of the partnership between these two teams?
Just a 44 Grand Prix wins, and 8 Championships between the 1988-1992 seasons.
What about the current partnership between McLaren-Mercedes? How did they fare?
78 Grand Prix Victories, Three Drivers Championships, and One Constructors Championship. They also set the record for the partnership streak that was one of the longest in recent times.
McLaren-Honda was a partnership of its own kind. Apart from the amazing performance on-track, they created ripples off-track as well. One can’t just go around and blame Honda for the amount of influence they exhibit on the garage. Yes, they create the needless tension within a team, but that’s their working culture.
For those of you who have read our article on Battle of the Teammates (Link), We have stressed on the Prost-Senna relationship, and also the amount of the influence that Honda have casted on the garage. Needless rift, and Needless ego’s were a common sign during those days. But Honda sees two drivers as a different prospect.
As a Samurai, and as a Computer?
“For '89, though, I was worried about Honda. And I think my biggest problem was that I never had the relationship with them that Ayrton did. From the beginning, it was something I never felt I had under control. I wouldn't have cared very much if they'd simply preferred one driver in the team - but the way they handled the situation was very difficult for me, because Senna and I had very different driving styles."
Matin Whitmarsh - “I am delighted to announce Honda and McLaren will soon begin a new chapter of our legendary Formula One partnership. It is a partnership synonymous with success. Together, in 1988, we created the most successful Formula One car of all time which was driven to victory 15 times out of 16 (grands prix) by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. McLaren and Honda are about to embark on a new and extremely exciting adventure together.
Some mighty words from the man, who is trying to lead McLaren to the top. McLaren-Honda are two good teams who knows what they are doing, but it would be so good, if they can have realistic expectations on their mind. This kind of expectations was recently shown by the Williams-Renault partnership deal, although the deal is now running out its time-frame, it was announced with much expectations. Unfortunately, the Williams-Renault saga has ended without meeting much of its expectations, largely due to the issues with Williams who couldn’t produce a beauty like those of the early 1990’s.
There can be many versions of this McLaren-Honda deal, but for sure though, McLaren needs to ramp up its game, they don’t have enough time to experiment in a way similar to their current season. It’s been a long time since they have won a constructor championship, or even a drivers championship. A ‘Top Team’ doesn’t just bring good names to its team or be in controversial situations, they also need to win races, and most importantly, championships. For that to happen, McLaren shouldn’t be experimenting too much like now.
“I know exactly how passionate Honda is about motorsport, and Formula One in particular. I grew up watching McLaren-Honda Formula One cars racing and winning around the world - they wrote their own glorious chapter of Formula One history. Even now, picturing those unmistakable red-and-white cars evokes vivid memories of some of the most dramatic and exciting motor racing the world has ever seen. McLaren-Honda: I know how much passion, success and pride are encapsulated within just those two words. That's why I'm so thrilled and excited about what's not only a fantastic opportunity for the team, but also a great development for Formula One fans and the sport as a whole.” - Jenson Button
Of the current breed of drivers, Jenson Button is one name who has a long association with Honda. For a good stint, he was part of BAR, then Honda, and then Brawn. We are unsure of the contracts between McLaren and Button, but our guess is that Button should spend some quality time with the team even after the deal with Honda commences. If Honda were to cast the same spell, similar to one they casted during the Prost/Senna era, Button should be the man for Honda. He would be the ideal Samurai, and would normally thrive on the situations like these, but if Perez manages to stick around, it would be a different story altogether.
Has Perez managed to prove himself?
Too Early to make a judgement.
McLaren drivers are known to be aggressive, Perez found the McLaren motto, and is trying to show his aggressive side in the last three races. Some of his moves are controversial, he hasn’t been able to please his teammate, leave alone others on the grid.
We still aren’t convinced by the decision to hire Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, when McLaren had the services of Paul di Resta, and Nico Hulkenberg. Paul and Nico would have done wonders to the team, and have shown it in plenty of circumstances about their aggressive side, although we still believe, Paul di Resta is overrated by a notch, but it doesn’t take away his genuine talent. The decision to hire Checo always had its effect on the finances, which are also critical to the team’s long run. Maybe the team had prior knowledge about the exit of Vodafone or took into account of the performance of MP4-28 based on its windtunnel performances, which would have influenced their decision to go with Checo.
Maybe McLaren wanted a driver, who was easy on tyres? Or Maybe, McLaren wanted to genuinely develop a driver on the long run?
We had numerous topics on Paul di Resta, and Sergio Perez..
Has Perez excelled at the Right Time?
Is Paul Di Resta Overrated?
If we assume that Perez stays with the team during the McLaren-Honda deal, Would McLaren give the ‘Samurai’ Tag to Perez over Jenson Button?
We do know that manufacturers can’t tweak much on their components, as they did in yesteryears, but those little tweaks on and off tracks would cast its effect on the drivers role in the long run.
We are told that Honda is expanding its operations in Mexico. Maybe someone would make a story of it at a later date.
Honda - Bizarre!
Most of their decisions in Formula 1 are quite bizarre. Earlier in the article, we have stated that Honda knows what they are doing, that is because they always seem to have an answer for their bizarre decisions.
Who can forget the Earth livery in 2007-2008 seasons?
Apart from the necessary advertisements on their car, as mandated by the FIA, RA107 featured no other sponsored name. Inspite of the fact that, this livery suited their corporate image, it was uncalled in Formula 1. Considering the economic conditions, that was presented to us, they continued to use a similar livery in 2008. Understandably, Greenpeace slammed the decision adopted by Honda for their Formula 1 project. Even Bizarre fact was the Honda’s decision to quit Formula 1 after the 2008 season, while they spent a fortune for the 2009 season, Honda knew they have a winning project which is under development. Maybe they could have abandoned their corporate image, least for 2009 season. What was still bemusing, was their decision to sell the Team for such a low price.
Wonder what went through their minds?
Honda’s decision to drop Jordan for the 2003 season..
Both BAR and Jordan enjoyed equal status with Honda, with Jordan outperforming the British counterparts during the 2001 and 2002 seasons. However, owing to a long term deal, and what was reported as a exclusivity status, Honda decided to drop Jordan and opted to increase their partnership with BAR. Some suggested that Honda had a rolling contract with Jordan, while some speculated that Honda wasn’t satisfied with the financial offerings of Jordan.
It would have been interesting to see the effect of Jordan-Honda on a long term partnership, and what would have happened, if Honda opted to take over Jordan instead of BAR?
The Effect of Harvey Postlethwaite:
Harvey Postlethwaite was hired as a technical director and designer of Honda’s ambitious project in 1998-99 season. Over the course of 1998 season, Honda hired several technical staff to make a entry into Formula 1 as a constructor. A test car was built with the help of Dallara, and was driven by Jos Verstappen. During the one such session, Postlethwaite suffered a fatal heart attack, and this brought the end to Honda’s constructor dreams.
Did Honda depend too much on Postlethwaite?
It should be noted that Honda’s previous attempts to enter as a constructor was way back in 1993-94 seasons, Honda was on preparing for such an attempt from the 1992 season, when Honda’s CEO publicly stated their ambitions of a constructor team. They built the RC100 chassis which was unveiled to media during the early 1993 season, and it had even passed the FIA crash tests. Over the course of the year, Honda built two other chassis, RC101 and RC101B. However, they decided to focus on Engine development in CART, and IRL.
We still wonder, why a manufacturer would spend so much, yet decide to abandon the project midway, just because of one person?
Honda’s favorite drivers:
Remember the 1986 season?
The Battle between Williams Teammates?
Williams had a far superior car then the rest of the grid. Piquet Sr. was backed by Honda, and it was reported that Williams hired Piquet sr. as the Number uno driver, as requested by Honda. But it was Mansell, who was preferred by the team as the Number uno driver, the battle between the teammates resulted in Alain Prost to win the championship, despite being in the inferior car.
The Prost/Senna saga, as we knew was also caused due to Honda favoring a particular driver.
The list goes on, Satoru Nakajima, and Takuma Sato were all deeply related to Honda. Even now, when Honda announced its decision to re-enter Formula 1, Sato was again to rumored to make his comeback, although he strongly denied these rumors. Jenson Button had contractual disputes early in his career. For the 2005 season, Jenson used a loophole in his contract with BAR to sign for Honda, however the Contract Recognition Board ruled in favor of BAR, which resulted in Jenson extending his stay with BAR. For the 2006 season, Jenson again signed a contract with Williams, but this time, Jenson was too tempted with the Honda’s deal over BAR which forced him to boycott his contract with the Williams Team. It was reported that, Williams received a £18 million compensation package for Jenson’s violations of the contract. In case of Jenson’s deal with BAR for the 2005 season, he stressed on the fact that, BAR didn’t have a definite contract with Honda which forced him to sign with the Williams Team.
And lastly, the most bizarre concept that Honda follows, is their naming pattern. Be it the Chassis or the Engine, it starts with ‘RA’, and we are not sure why they have continued to use the code for more than five decades with their motorsport policy.
We should be really looking forward to the McLaren Honda deal, not just for their performance On-Track, but also their performance Off-Track as well. For sure, McLaren and Honda would be wiser from the experience they had in Formula 1.
But still it would be interesting to see Jenson Vs Perez/His Replacement.
Would Honda go crazy over Jenson, and back him for the championship? or Would Honda look at younger prospective and favor him for a long term development? or Would there be a neutral parity of drivers?
We also know that, Marussia would be needing a new supplier for the 2014 season and beyond. Considering the fact that Honda’s deal with McLaren is not exclusive, Maybe, Honda needs to tempt Marussia in joining them. Marussia already have a partnership with McLaren for technical sharing of data, with Honda joining the mix, Marussia might well act as a satellite team for driver development and beyond.
This would be our take on the scenario, however Marussia-Ferrari seems to be likely possibility.
Also Honda joins the Formula 1 wagon, only in 2015. That’s an year after from the introduction of new regulations.
Does Honda benefit from the late arrival? Or Would they lose out on the extra mileage gained by these manufacturers?
Although, any kind of mileage would benefit a manufacturer, Honda should be better prepared with their late entry, as they would have enough time to do their simulations, and ease out any teething troubles that may arise on their way. However, considering the fact that BMW too have provided same expectations during their arrival in Formula 1, and considering the timeframe that took them to ease out their reliability issues, Honda should be cautious with their programme.
But only to the experience of Honda in their attempts with the turbocharged engines. We still believe that Honda has an edge over other manufacturers, as the amount of R&D and the simulation, that exists on the table now, will surely benefit Honda, and they should be able to provide their best services to McLaren, right from the word ‘Go’.