JUNE 15, 2001
Honda teams need to be wary of hard line on F1 engine deals
At the Canadian Grand Prix there was much speculation that the Japanese car maker is poised to concentrate on a single team in the near future, which would leave either Jordan or BAR struggling to find engines. One had to be impressed with Eddie Jordan's upbeat assessment of the situation. It was typical of many F1 team principals, somehow trying to turn the whole thing back on the media.
"I believe it is absolutely a rumor," said Jordan defiantly. "I think it's probably the time of the year when the press like to speculate on things as they so, quite within their entitlement, and some of these things can be quite hurtful and malicious and there is absolutely no rumor (did he mean truth?) in this particular speculation."
Craig Pollock took a more relaxed view. "I think both teams should be slightly worried about it," he said. "But, no, Honda haven't said anything to me on that subject and obviously they have a binding contract - until at least the end of next year."
Bearing in mind the Newey/Jaguar saga, talk of "binding contracts" in F1 at the present time probably isn't the wisest course of events. And it has to be said that Honda's F1 history is by no means unblemished in this respect.
Jordan and Pollock should remember that Honda ditched Williams at the end of the 1987 season when they still had another year of their firm contract to supply their powerful turbocharged 1.5-liter V6s left to run. A settlement was duly reached, but it was a strained time and there was no doubt that Honda let Williams down badly.
"With hindsight I suppose one could have taken a more aggressive legal stance with Honda," said Williams after the event, "but a settlement was duly achieved although, again with hindsight, was grossly inadequate. Privately we thought we had a sound technical base for our switch to a Judd naturally, but we were not wise enough to see that this was potentially a major disaster.
"It turned out to be the latter and, believe me, it brought the team to its knees. We were not quite on the floor, but the countdown had almost begun, if you like. The 1988 season was certainly pretty lurid thanks to Honda's clumsiness."
What Pollock and Jordan need to remember is that, at the time they were ditched by Honda, Williams was a regular Grand Prix winner and a World Championship contender. Their teams are also-rans by comparison. So they both have every reason to be nervous about the future.