MAY 22, 2007
New faces coming at Honda
There is little doubt that the poor performance of the Honda F1 team this year will result in changes being made to the team. The big question is what these changes are going to be - and what effect this will have on the long-term future of the team. There are lots of rumours at the moment - as there have been for some time. The crux of the matter is how the team is run and whether it is run directly from Japan or whether the European end of the operation is left to manage its own affairs and reporting back to Japan on a regular basis. Traditionally in F1, teams which are run direct by car manufacturers tend not to work very well as the attitudes needed to be successful in F1 are very different to those needed to run a car company.
The best example of how to do it right is probably Renault, which hands the whole business over to Flavio Briatore and leaves him to get on with it. The worst example of this is probably Jaguar, which was constantly being disrupted by the internal politics at Ford, which meant that team principals were never given the chance to do as they pleased.
Honda wants to win in F1 but has also made no secret of its desire to win with its own chassis. Simply being an engine supplier is not enough. Unfortunately, teams these days are big and complicated to run and thus a key element of success is the management of the operation. People need to be correctly motivated and decisions need to be made by people who fully understand all the implications of a decision. In other words, it is not easy to simply drop in people with management skills but no F1 experience. The alternative is to find F1 people who understand the technical questions involved but are also good at management. This is a very small group of people.
Honda's current problems have undermined the fact that the team was very close to success last year. Getting rid of technical director Geoff Willis may have seemed a good idea at the time but what is now clear is that no-one else knew how to keep that success going. Risks were taken by the technical people and these have backfired.
It is logical that the team would be looking for a new chief aerodynamicist and the rumours that Ben Agathangelou will join the team make a lot of sense although as far as we know there is nothing yet organised. Agathangelou is under contract to Red Bull and so a minimum of six months is needed before he can move elsewhere. This means that he could not join Honda until the autumn.
We also hear that there are others who may be on their way to Honda.
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