MARCH 8, 1999
Honda's final F1 decision
THE Honda Motor Company will make a final decision about its plans to enter Formula 1 racing after a meeting in England on March 18. The meeting will consider the various options open to the Japanese car company and choose the best strategy. If the decision is taken to go ahead Honda is understood to be planning to invest around $200m a year in F1 for the next five years.
In all probability the company will decide to push ahead with its own team, building both the chassis and the engines in premises in England. Honda has already set up a toe-in-the-water testing operation, which is at the moment running a prototype chassis for Jos Verstappen. The cars have been built by Automobili Dallara in Italy but if the F1 project gets the go-ahead the construction will be moved to Britain.
The size of the Honda testing operation is an indication that the company is likely to go ahead with the program. There are currently around 120 people working for Honda Racing Developments at its factory in Bracknell, Berkshire. Most of these are members of the old Tyrrell team. If the go-ahead is given we expect Honda to build a completely new factory somewhere in the Bracknell area.
Honda Racing Developments manager Rupert Manwaring was spotted in the paddock at the Australian GP in the company of two of the top men from Honda's Research and Development Center at Wako, near Tokyo. This was interesting as up to now there has been some resistance to the European program from Honda R&D engineers who wanted to run the program in-house.
Our spies at Bracknell tell us that the Japanese managers involved are calling the shots with the testing program and will be playing a major role if the team gets the go-ahead.
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