APRIL 14, 2002
Honda and BAR
THERE have been all kinds of strange rumors floating about in Formula 1 circles in recent days but the most believable one is that the links between BAR and Honda are going to be strengthened in the years ahead. Honda has consistently denied that it will have its own F1 team and that policy does not seem to have much changed but it is also clear that British American Tobacco cannot continue forever in F1 because of the forthcoming tobacco ban in global motor racing. BAT will thus disappear sooner rather than later and when the company goes the team's identity will largely disappear as well. David Richards says that he wants to give the team a new identity but as Prodrive is a service provider rather than a high profile brand in its own right, the implication is that a Prodrive-owned F1 team would probably end up being badged by a manufacturer in much the same way as the relationship which exists in the World Rally Championship between Prodrive and Subaru, which now dates back 12 years. The team is a joint venture between Prodrive and Subaru with funding coming from BAT. The blue and gold Subaru Imprezas between 1994 and 1998 have become globally-recognized and even with BAT stopped funding the program the organization kept the same colors to maintain the visual branding of the team and so was able to pick up the 555 sponsorship again this year. Such a deal involving Honda would make a huge amount of sense. It would minimize the risks involved for Honda while allowing the company to be seen to be winning in F1 while at the same time helping to build up the value of the Prodrive company. BAR currently has a deal with Honda until the end of 2005 but we would not be surprised if the BAT link was to disappear fairly quickly, opening the way for Honda to step in. What is needed now, however, is a replacement sponsor of the same magnitude of BAT to fund the whole program and to give the team a new identity.
There is an element of speculation involved in this at the moment but we believe that things are now moving in this direction.
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