NOVEMBER 2, 1998
The non-existent Honda project
ALTHOUGH Honda has yet to officially confirm that it is entering Formula 1 in the year 2000 there is no doubt that a team is being put together and that it will begin running cars in both Japan and Europe within days of officially confirming its entry into F1.
While the new team will become Japanese in nature there will be considerable input from European engineers while their Japanese counterparts learn about composite chassis construction and F1 aerodynamics.
These efforts will be guided by European engineers under Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite, although this involvement is likely to be played down as was the case in the 1960s when Honda worked with Lola to develop a Formula 1 chassis.
A short official announcement of Honda's plans is expected in mid-November, although it is worth noting that several people in the F1 paddock at Suzuka were spotted wearing "Honda F1" passes, despite the fact that the team does not officially exist.
There is a drawing office at Leatherhead, in England, and a factory is being established in Bracknell, within easy reach of London's Heathrow Airport. We hear that the Honda F1 team already has 75 employees and that four chassis are ready to test. These have been designed in secret in recent months at Leatherhead and have been built at Dallara in Italy. Two of these cars are expected to be flown to Japan to be used for engine testing while the other two will remain in Europe. There have been suggestions that Honda wants Mika Salo to be one of the test drivers but the Finn says he is keen to race and wants to stay with Arrows. If Honda offers him a good long-term deal Salo may change his mind and sign for the Japanese. If Salo does not become the test driver Jos Verstappen is a possibility, although BMW is also keen to secure the services of the Dutchman.
In the year 2000 Honda wants Salo and Tora Takagi as drivers while backing for the project is expected to come from PIAA, plus a major oil company, and from other technical Japanese sponsors.