JUNE 10, 2004
Honda is just like the old days
There was a time back in the 1980s when Honda seemed to be completely invincible in Formula 1. The FIA Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship was won by a Honda-powered team for six consecutive seasons between 1986 and 1991 and five times Honda drivers won the Drivers' title. The greatest of the Honda drivers was the late Ayrton Senna who won three titles and 28 races. But then at the end of 1992 the company decided it has done enough in F1 and quit, leaving the field open for Renault to begin a period of domination which would last until the late 1990s. The Honda F1 engineers of that era were assigned to new jobs, many of them working on the development of hybrid engines . The then chairman Nobuhiko Kawamoto wanted to return in 1998 with an all-Honda team to do the one thing left for the company in F1, winning the World Championship with a Honda chassis with a complete car. A factory was established under Harvey Postlethwaite in England and Dallara in Italy built a Honda prototype. But within a few months Kawamoto was ousted in a power struggle and the new chief executive Hiroyuki Yoshino decided that the best course of action was to return in the role of an engine supplier to British American Racing in 2000. The first three seasons were not successful but at the end of 2002 it was announced that there was to be a reshuffle and Takeo Kiuchi, Senna's motor engineer for several seasons, was put in charge. A few months later it was announced that Yoshino would be replaced as Honda boss by Takeo Fukui, the man who was passionate about success in F1 and had previously been in charge of Honda R&D, the organization which ran the F1 programme. Since then progress has been obvious and this year the BAR-Honda team is on the verge of a breakthrough, with a victory likely at some point this year and a sign that Honda has a steely determination to knock Ferrari off the top. At every race BAR-Honda has a different spec engine, just as it used to be in the old days. While most engine companies tune the engines differently for each event and have three or four upgrades a year, Honda is operating a different system and the signs are that it will soon pay off. This weekend in Canada Jenson Button and Takuma Sato will have a revised version of the Honda V10 engine and after the impressive displays in Monaco and at the Nurburgring, Ferrari is beginning to look over its shoulder. The Rising Sun is rising again.
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