OCTOBER 6, 2005
Why would Honda want a second F1 team?
Honda is planning to supply a second Formula 1 team in 2006 - and the move makes a huge amount of sense, at least if you are a Honda executive. While many in F1 see the team as being a place for Honda to put Takuma Sato, there is probably a great deal more to it than that, not least that rival Toyota is about to double its involvement in the sport with a deal to supply engines to Williams in 2007. This will probably be announced this weekend and that will mean that Honda will need to work even harder to make an impression if there are going to be two Toyota-powered teams at the front in F1 in the future.
It is worth noting that Mercedes-Benz is rumoured to have a similar plan to increase its involvement to two teams with rumours of preparations underway in Woking for a 12th F1 team, which would be housed in the old McLaren factory. Ferrari already has two teams, with Red Bull Racing planning to use Ferrari V8 engines next year. All this means that the manufacturers with the most cars will gain the most knowledge in testing and thus, in theory at least, gain an advantage. In the end this will mean that those who drift back to the midfield will be struggling to get any results.
This is a pattern which we have seen in NASCAR in recent years and highlights the futility of cost-cutting and testing restrictions. If there is a testing restriction, there is incentive to look for more cars, if the budget will run to it. In NASCAR this has resulted in a situation in which eight team owners control 26 cars and the smaller operations are being forced out of usiness as all the sponsors go to the big teams in order to get a return on their investment.
The question of how one can put together an F1 team in a matter of a few months is an interesting one but it may not be as hard as some people believe. The BAR team is currently owned by BAT and will remain so until December 31 2005. At some point between now and the end of the year BAT may decide to sell the intellectual property rights for the current BAR chassis to a new team. As Honda is buying out BAT this will mean that the current team's new car will thus be owned by a completely different entity to the old car and thus there will not be a problem with the Concorde Agreement, which stipulates that no team can run the same chassis as another.
There are cases of teams doing deals in the past over aerodynamic profiles and such matters but as the mechanical elements beneath the shell were rather different - even if the shape was the same - the cars were allowed to run.
Thus the practical issues of building a new team are about finding the people and acquiring the right equipment although as teams are constantly moving on there is always going to be an element of hand-me-down stuff which will make life a lot easier. It is anticipated that the new Honda team will have a completely new motorhome facility next year, which would mean, for example, that a secondary team could take over the original with just a few licks of new paint.
People are more of a problem but there are already signs that the new team is on the move, taking on key members of staff - who at the moment remain nameless - and although next year may be a bit of a rush, it will mean that by the start of 2007, Honda will have two teams up and running and ready to take the fight to Toyota - and the other F1 teams.
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