I’m willing to bet that when Mclaren announced that they were rekindling their relationship with Honda most people were like me. All I could think of was the red and white machines driven by Senna laping Monaco 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else. Those were the days and the cars that turned me into an F1 fan and I couldn’t wait for them to return.
But let’s take off the rose-tinted glasses. Before Honda left F1 they were,frankly, a laughing stock. The BAR Honda was slow. Really slow. And unreliable.
All that was meant to change when Honda took over the team completely. It didn’t. The works Honda was even slower. And even less reliable. And ugly.
The “earth car” was an embarrassment. For those of us who remember the Mastercard Lola the performance was about the same.
Honda spent hundreds of millions of dollars and achieved one win, which was far more down to Jenson Button and the weather than anything Honda did.
In fact, the more I think of it the more I realise that the last success Honda had was during the late 90s with the Jordan Mugen-Honda.
And this got me thinking.
Why? Why are Honda not at the forefront of F1 technology.
The answer is ironically the very reason that Honda have returned.
Other manufacturers enter F1 to win, pure and simple. They bring in the expertise and experience from outside their organisation that they need in order to win.
Honda are different. They are in F1 to learn.
Honda will use Honda engineers and Honda designers. If they don’t have the necessary expertise then they will learn rather than bring the expertise in from outside. The new hybrid technology in F1 is important to Honda. They are using it in their new NSX supercar, but at the moment what they have is very basic compared to Porsche , Ferrari and, ironically, Mclaren.
F1 gives them the opportunity to improve their technology which will allow them to improve not just the NSX but the next generation of Honda hybrid roadcars.
That is why they are in F1 and once they gain the necessary expertise they will leave again.
And this is why the Mclaren Honda glory days won’t return.