ENGINES: HONDA MOTOR COMPANY
Name: Honda Motor Company
In 1977 Honda decided to return to Formula 1 as an engine supplier, rather than fielding a complete car as it had done in the 1960s. The program began with a Formula 2 engine which Honda supplied to Ron Tauranac's Ralt organization. The engines were to be serviced in Britain by Engine Developments, a company jointly owned by John Judd and Jack Brabham - an old friend of Honda. The engine was developed in 1980 and in 1981 Geoff Lees won the European F2 title in a Ralt-Honda. The following year was not as successful. Ralt was busy producing customer Formula 3 cars and so Honda expanded the supply to a new organization called Spirit, founded by former March men Gordon Coppuck and John Wickham. Ralt had no desire to go to F1 but Spirit was ambitious.
In Japan Honda engineers had already built the first turbocharged F1 prototypes and by August 1982 Spirit was sent a dummy F1 engine. The first Honda engine ran in a Spirit F2 chassis in November that year. An F1 car was built for 1983 but by then Spirit knew that Honda was close to a deal with Williams for 1984.
The Spirit-Honda was driven by Stefan Johansson and the emphasis was very definitely on engine development. There were no startling results. As expected the Williams-Honda deal was agreed and announced at the German GP and by the autumn Williams was running a car with a Honda engine and the team debuted the Honda at the South African GP at the end of the year.
The 1984 season was a difficult time with a series of engine failures but in Dallas in July - in debilitating heat - Keke Rosberg survived to win as others suffered failures or crashed. It was Honda's first turbocharged victory - and the first of many which would follow. No-one expected it, not even the bosses at Honda and it was not repeated that year.
But the learning process was coming to an end. Honda was throwing more resources and more people at the project and the results improved. At Silverstone Rosberg produced an extraordinary qualifying lap to take pole position at an average speed of 160.925mph. At the end of the year the Williams-Hondas won the last three races: two wins for Nigel Mansell and the third for Rosberg.
The 1986 season would belong to Williams and Honda with Mansell and Piquet winning nine times. The team won the Constructors' title but Alain Prost was able to sneak through to win the Drivers' title in a thrilling showdown race in Adelaide. It also resulted in the announcement that Honda would supply its engines to Lotus in 1987, in order to have Ayrton Senna driving one of its cars. Lotus was willing to give the second seat to Honda protege Satoru Nakajima.
The 1987 season was once again a battle between the two Williams drivers but the Williams-Honda relationship was becoming strained. At Silverstone British crowds thrilled to the sight of Mansell sweeping imperiously past Piquet in the closing laps but in the paddock Honda was not happy. They wanted to have more control over the team and have Mansell play a supporting role to Piquet to ensure that the title went to Honda. Frank Williams was not going to be bullied. It was his team. At Monza it was announced that Honda would be joining McLaren in 1988. Senna would be Prost's team-mate and Piquet would transferring to Lotus-Honda alongside Nakajima. Piquet won the title.
But the Williams-Honda domination was nothing compared to what was coming. In 1988 McLaren's Prost and Senna blitzed the opposition - winning 15 of 16 races in their McLaren-Hondas. The only failure to win came at Monza where Senna was headed for victory when he stumbled upon the Williams of Grand Prix debutante Jean-Louis Schlesser, nephew of Jo Schlesser. There was a misunderstanding and Senna went off. Honda's clean sweep of the World Championship was ruined . Senna won the title. The following year the two drivers fell out but the McLaren-Honda combination continued to dominated, winning 10 victories. A frustrated Prost rammed Senna off the track at Suzuka to win the title. He left the team at the end of the year.
In 1990 Senna won as he pleased and he did the same in 1991.
The success in F1 had propelled another of Honda's racing engineers to the top of the company but Nobuhiko Kawamoto realized that the company could no longer afford the F1 program as stiff competition and a strong yen were hurting sales. At the end of 1992 Honda pulled out of F1.
In 1998 Kawamoto gave the go-ahead for Honda to return to F1 with a complete team. A factory was established under Harvey Postlethwaite in England and Dallara in Italy built the prototype cars. As this was happening Kawamoto was ousted in a power struggle and, under pressure from the American Honda Motor company - which wanted nothing to do with an F1 program - the new chief executive Hiroyuki Yoshino - the first non-racer to run the company - decided to switch to British American Racing in 2000. This was not a big success and Honda then decided to expand the factory engine supply to Jordan but in the middle of 2002 that decision was changed and it was announced that Jordan would no longer get Honda engines and that the Japanese would be concentrating on BAR for the future.