McLaren and Honda

There is a great deal of silly and irrelevant chatter at the moment about the McLaren-Honda alliance. Obviously, things are not where the team would like them to be, but no doubt Honda engineers are working around the clock to fix the problems with the power unit.

One does not need to be a Rhodes Scholar to see that Honda underestimated the job required, or perhaps went down a path that was later deemed a bad idea and it has been playing catch-up ever since. The law of diminishing returns means that given time the manufacturers will all end up at the same sort of level of performance, at which point Honda’s philosophy of doing things its own way will pay off because you never get ahead by copying, only by finding different solutions.

There is no guarantee that this will lead to Honda domination in F1, but those who underestimate the intellect and resources that Honda has are unwise. Of course there is frustration about the current situation, but the “win together, lose together” approach is way more intelligent – and graceful – than Red Bull’s public flogging of Renault, which appears rather rude after the French company helped the team to four consecutive World Championships. I guess that if one is looking for gracious behaviour one days not hire Helmut Marko. If Red Bull ends up without an engine partner it has only itself to blame. 

McLaren is quite right to argue that a team without manufacturer backing is not going to win the title – being a customer is always just a stepping stone. Those who hark back to “the good old days” of Cosworth are living in the past. F1 is now too big and too valuable a communication tool to have specialist engine companies beating manufacturers. That time has gone.

Honda is a good choice for McLaren, given the Japanese firm’s history in the sport and the mentality at Honda. It would be good to see more manufacturers coming in and teaming up with the likes of Williams and Lotus, but that is unlikely to happen until there are some new attitudes on the sport. However that should not stop teams going and banging on the doors at Ford, GM, Toyota, Hyundai, Peugeot or Porsche and arguing the case of F1. It is not an easy sell, but if you don’t try, you don’t have the chance to fail.

We all know that the sport itself needs some changes – and we know also that they will come – and having more manufacturers will only help that happen. McLaren went out and sold Honda on a deal – and that is what the other teams shoul do.

103 thoughts on “McLaren and Honda

  1. It’s sad that there are so many ‘pundits’ in journalism today. There always seems to be an ex driver or even a driver on the periphery who will give someone in the press a sound bite. Their opinion on the state of the relationship between Honda and Mclaren is just that. An opinion yet the headlines always suggest it as fact.

  2. Interesting to read that it was McLaren who brought Honda back into the sport. I just assumed Honda approached McLaren after deciding that the current rules were appealing.i will say that after reading several different quotes from Mr. Arai, Honda’s F1 director, I’ve come to the conclusion that man is a megalomaniac, if said quotes are accurate.

    1. He does not speak English very well so you need to be wary of all things attributed to him. Just imagine trying to make yourself understood in Japan if they didn’t speak English

  3. ” Those who hark back to “the good old days” of Cosworth are living in the past.”

    And yet..

    It seems you are harking back to the good old days of Honda.

      1. I think many people believe this Honda is not engineering-led in the way it used to be Joe. But, Ron had to go somewhere to get away from being a customer OXO, and Honda was the only option.

    1. We can see technology transfer OEM from road car powertrians into motor sport, especially in terms of combustion process – witness the striking progress of emission performance over the past two decades. However, a race engine is still a long way from most road car applications in terms of engine speed, mechanical integrity / weight and cooling / oil system demands. Thus we see the sport’s most successful engines come from specialist units inside major OEMs, bringing together two powerful engineering streams.In this sense a stand alone race engine specialist will struggle to keep up with or, more critically, keep ahead of such technology blends. As a final point the multi faceted hybrid elements were born in other industries but in terms of durability and increased power density motor sport is doing a powerful job to push the limits right now, even if there are downsides for the teams on the track due to the immensely complex application strategy issues.

      My back ground? A powertrain engineer.

  4. I did read the bbc article and the most important point in there was – former McLaren Honda test driver – axe to grind?

    I enjoy the subplot of each race being how has McLaren Honda improved (or not) this race – and will they get both cars to the finish of all sessions, qualifying and the race. Good luck to them, F1 needs manufacturers capable of challenging that merc engine.

  5. Both McLaren and Honda are on a path that has a clearly defined payoff, its just taking more time than expected. In the meantime we will just have to put up with the ignorance of the clickbait merchant sites stirring up obstacles and issues – like thefuhrer18 (formerly known as thejudge13) whoms latest ‘exclusive’ cut and paste special claims the team are wrong to remain optimistic

  6. Well said Joe. Such are the facilities of Honda, I would expect them to be on a par with Ferrari (and possibly Mercedes) at the start of next season. Both McLaren and Honda need to retain focus and not be swayed by the short sighted and the impatient.

  7. Much of the current problems for Honda (and also Renault to some extent) is due to the FIA’s engine restrictions, including this “token” system which only serves to favour Mercedes who have a head start in the development race. So now Honda are handicapped as they can’t do unlimited in-season development on their engine, as was the case in 1980’s. Remember that back then Honda had a dedicated test team based at Suzuka, Emmanuele Pirro doing most of the laps there, plus Honda were bringing as many as 5 engines PER CAR to each race, now it’s only 5 engines for the entire season.
    I don’t doubt for one minute that Honda will catch up, as Mercedes’ development will soon level out. It’s just a matter of time, and time has a completely different meaning once you cross the River Jordan…

    1. “So now Honda are handicapped as they can’t do unlimited in-season development on their engine, as was the case in 1980’s.”

      AFAIK Honda can do all the testing they want throughout the year, just not in a current or recent F1 car. They can test to destruction whatever they want in their factory if they want to throw the necessary resources at it. I’m pretty sure there’d be nothing technically stopping them from building their own test car and running it around Suzuka 24/7 if they wanted to spend the money. But when they want to apply their findings and developments to a power unit going into the McLaren, that’s when they have to spend tokens, unless it’s done for reliability, or perhaps “reliability” (although in Honda’s case, I’d say the quotation marks probably aren’t necessary).

      So when they do spend those tokens, they have to make sure they’re spending wisely. They can’t just whack whatever in the car and if it doesn’t work, try the next idea out the next session or weekend. They can test as much as they want prior to making that decision though.

  8. I am sure Honda will come good, the question has always been when?

    My feeling is that McLaren can only afford a certain length of time catching up before it starts to devalue the brand to a point where it done almost un-repairable damage. There must be a £€$ limit to the amount of pain they can take.

  9. Nobody expected Honda to be this bad. Nobody expected Renault to be worse than last year.

    On the basis that two supremo engine manufacturers have produced exactly the opposite of what they are in F1 for in the first place cant be lost on the manufacturers thinking of entering the arena.

    If Renault do end up walking away from the sport and Honda’s public pain remains for longer what will encourage other manufacturers to risk the same massive “loss of face”?

    1. I don’t see it this way. This could be an opportunity for a competitor to step in and show the world that they can do better than Honda (or Renault for that matter).

      If they succeed is another topic of course, but Honda’s struggle could provide a good incentive for other manufacturers.

      1. Absolutely, I think that F1 teams have to get out there and sell the sport to the manufacturers. Yes, there are problems but those problems will go away soon enough and F1 will remain a mammoth marketing tool. I always use the same analogy: F1 is like a supertanker. It takes a fair bit to change direction and if the captain falls overboard it will continue to go in a straight line for a very long while…

  10. Joe, are you absolutely convinced that the tokens do not effectively “lock-in” disparities for ever?

    I could agree with your assurance about both Renault’s and Honda’s ability to catch up if they could redesign and swap cylinder heads, turbos and other ancillaries at will, but they can’t do that and have to spend tokens so wisely, that they cannot make a great leap that they need to.

    Spending a fortune up-front like Mercedes did made it a one-shot chance for the others. And they failed.

    1. There are enough tokens available at the moment to make very substantial changes to the engine as Joe has quoted an engineer that the values highly, so there are certainly opportunities for everyone to catch up to the front of the grid.

      The one effect that the tokens do have is that they restrict the number of iterations that can be deployed. Honda (or Renault) might want to bring a new engine to every race, each with a relatively minor change that doesn’t leap them to the front but that does move them a little way forward. This would help them with public opinion, since there would probably be visible forward progress. They can’t really do that with the current rules.

      The token system doesn’t stop iterative development — they can burn through as many power units as they like on the dyno — it just means the results of the iterations aren’t visible to the public along the way.

      Instead, it seems to me that the best way to “game” the token system is to make as many iterative changes as you possibly can on the dyno, try as many ideas as possible, then apply your very best thinking in one large change at the very end of the year. If necessary, develop several entirely new engines and only race them on the dyno against other development concepts. Only once you are certain that you have milked as much performance out as you possibly can, at the very last moment, then spend the tokens.

      This approach deprives the fans of seeing much progress during the year and plays havok with any PR campaign but it gets the best “bang for your token”, giving you the fastest engine possible not for the current season but rather for every subsequent year of the current regulations.

      1. Yet knowing this to be the case, Renault still managed to take a great leap backwards this year and any performance boost has been greatly offset by poor reliability. Next year, they have even fewer tokens to expend on even less of the components.

        2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
        Total of weighted items 66 66 66 66 66 66
        Total of weighted
        modifiable items 61 51 51 43 3 3
        Quota of total weighted items allowed for
        modifications 32 25 20 15 3 3
        % of modifications allowed vs. complete
        weighted PU 48 38 30 23 5 5
        Total of frozen items 5 15 15 23 63 63
        % PU being frozen 8. 23. 23. 35. 95. 95

        You can see that the possibility of a new manufacturer coming in after next year has to be next to zero. And I guess by which point at the end of next year Renault and Honda will know if they have been found wanting.

        1. PS the formatting was destroyed when I pressed the Post button, but I think you can work out what should go where.

          1. I think that I do. Renault need to spend their 25 tokens for next year fixing the problems they introduced with their 32 tokens they had this year.

            Meanwhile, Mercedes produced a PU with most of the necessary attributes in 2014 and spent 32 tokens this year on making it more reliable, more fuel efficient and able to spend more race laps at full power. And next year they have 25 tokens to finess that process.

            Meanwhile Honda are severely disadvantaged by being one year behind of on-track development (clearly figures from their and Renault’s dyno testing are unreliable) and if Audi are thinking of entering, they will have too few tokens to deploy in the year following the year that they actually choose to enter.

            The odds are severely stacked against any other PU supplier catching up. I believe that only Ferarri are capable of overcoming their current deficit before 95% of the engine is frozen.

            Engine tokens was a fantastic concept for reducing engine development costs. Unfortunately, because there was no budget cap for year-1, it will make it virtually impossible for Renault and Honda to equalise their PUs during the lifetime of these mega-bucks engines. Their boards will eventually get the message and they will probably pull the plug having thrown huge sums of cash at the problem.

            My guess is that Horner and Newey have already worked this through and know they have troublesome decisions ahead.

  11. I have great respect for Honda, a man who started out making piston rings. If anyone would like to see the respect they have for their history I suggest a trip to YouTube and a search for some of the old Grand Prix cars that they still keep running (much like McLaren in fact).

  12. Interesting that you should mention the possibility that Honda started on the wrong route and have had to make a direction change as, during the Silverstone weekend quite by chance I found myself (in a pub in the Cotswolds) having a conversation with a very senior member of a well known team.

    He told me that they had sent their engine guys to talk to Honda before the McLaren deal had been announced but had found the direction Honda were taking to be ‘a bit barking’. That is a direct quote.

  13. Yes, completely agree. I think Honda is good (or even sure?) bet for McLaren. And Red Bull’s attitude towards Renault is disgraceful. One might suspect that Red Bull is actively looking for a way out of F1? In a sence that they can blame Renault for their current ‘failure’ (or lack of competativeness) and because of that they need to stop their investment in F1. I can already hear Marko utter words like this. One can also hear some rumours on selling Toro Rosso, that would be in line with my suggestion. And Christian Horner will take over Bernie’s job, so has been said, so he won’t get unemployed.
    (Or am I being too negative?)

  14. In 1994 Honda entered Indycar with an engine that was too heavy, conventional and underpowered to compete against Cosworth and Ilmor. Through several iterations that year they got it roughly straight but unreliability was so bad (due in part to flexing blocks) it forced partner team Rahal/Hogan to ditch them. In 1996 they won the Championship with Ganassi racing.

    The current powertrain in F1 is way more complex and difficult to master, F1 is much more difficult to win in than 90s Indycar, etc etc but the point is Honda tend to eventually get it right if they are committed.

    The worry is more what it will do to McLaren in the interim and if the F1 rules are able to give them a chance to right their wrongs.

    1. Absolutely right about the collateral damage. It may require the shareholders to inject new capital to make up the shortfall. The has been some posturing on this already by McLaren so I hope results improve soon. Next year might not be good either, but, with new, possibly simplified engine rules (and no fuel flow limit) in 2017 then that may well be Honda’s year.

    2. I was wondering when someone would bring up IndyCar, which is currently a Honda vs. Chevrolet contest. Seems to me I’ve viewed some Indycar starting grids this year and wondered how long Honda would endure being publicly reamed before either shaping up or shipping out of the league. And, 3 Honda wins to Chevy’s 9 so far. I don’t feel qualified to make worthwhile inferences from Honda’s belly-flops in OWR’s two top leagues, except that one way or another the company’s leadership can’t possibly tolerate those situations for long.

  15. Bobby Rahal was once in the same position in ,Indycar, that McLaren is now in F1 and he gave up one season to early. The next season a small team ,Tasman Motorsports, was all they could get and guess what they won Hondas first race and the rest is history. No one should underestimate Honda.

  16. I guess that if one is looking for gracious behaviour one days not hire Helmut Marko. I would add to this Christian Horner. He does not act as good cop but rather the other British version of the bad cop. I think this used to be part of the RBR any publicity is good publicity, but has just grown like a cancer into something quite ugly over time. No one can stop the spread.

    If Red Bull ends up without an engine partner it has only itself to blame. And that is likely, without an active Adrian Newey why partner with them? Certainly not for thier superior salesmanship and sportsmanship, support for competition or drivers. The only reason would be because for some reason you like big bulls on you cars. And we all know what comes out the rear of big bulls!

  17. The big worry as an outsider looking in, is that they just don’t seem to be getting better, would prefer to see them getting faster and blowing up the engines than just going around at the back with no power and no sponsors. The rate of development seems to have stalled and maybe they need to design a new power unit with less packaging constraints “Size Zero” car etc.

    F1 needs the Honda return to work, McLaren need it to work, Honda need it to work, maybe give new entrants unlimited testing without race drivers to allow them to develop the package and increase the engine allowance for the first year to 7-8 engines, no one is going to come into F1 if its this difficult to develop your product.

  18. An unintended consequence of the points system for engine development is that it can only reduce the speed at which Honda (& for that matter, Renault) catch up with Mercedes’ engines.

    Still, Ferrari have shown what’s possible.

  19. I seem to recall that Honda’s previous attempt at a turbocharged V6 F1 engine wasn’t a success straight out of the box either, with Nico’s Dad comparing the power delivery unfavourably with a light switch. They got that one sorted…

  20. Quite right Joe. All the short-term reactionary wailing with regards to the poor performance of Mclaren-Honda seems to stem from those with little patience or realism; either that or they perhaps enjoy sensationalism a bit too much (aka a certain Mr Jordan).

  21. As much as I hope Honda gets their act together, I can’t help but thin about their last stint in F1 up to 2008. Dreadful cars with questionable engines. The 1980’s era was a different Honda.

  22. Did Honda engine boss Arai really say that the car’s low aero grip was preventing the drivers from accelerating out of corners? Is that accurate?

    I guess it’s Boullier’s turn now.

      1. I’ve also read the same headline, but Arai seems to miss the point. If Mclaren add more wing, top speed will equal my old Fiat Panda.

  23. Dominance doesn’t last forever in F1. Mercedes are top dogs now, but in 2 seasons time, who knows? Could well be McLaren Honda. Honda built a terrible car in 2008, but under new regs in 2009 what became the Brawn chassis was right up there. We keep hearing about tweaks to engine regs or changes to the aero, so Mercedes’ rivals will have a chance to steal a march. Having said that, Honda haven’t exactly started well…but think back to 2012 and Mercedes were fighting off all kinds of questions about lack of pace etc. Many thought Hamilton was mad to go there from McLaren. F1 doesn’t stand still. I must admit, though, that we are missing out on having Alonso and Button in front-running cars this season. A real waste of talent. Hopefully it will come good.

  24. Would love to see Williams get a works deal along with a higher budget.

    Curious as to why you said Porsche and not Audi Joe. Am I reading too much into it or do you think Porsche I more likely to come in than Audi?

    1. Yes, I would love to see Williams pair up with a quality manufacturer, as well. Too much history and talent on that team to not have a true engine partner rather than simply a supplier.

  25. ” – and we all know also that they will come ”

    Seriously Joe ? I don’t ! And just what do you think will finally motivate significant changes that start attacking the disease F1 is currently suffering from rather than constantly addressing the symptoms as had been the FIA and F1 supremos want of late ? Personally though I’d like to believe what you’re implying might come true nothing on the horizon is giving me so much as a modicum of hope that it ever will . The FIA/F1 powers that be only dolling out pacifiers in order to keep the F1 minions occupied and silent rather than genuine change addressing the real problems that might actually bring F1 back to the forefront it once enjoyed .

    As far as Honda and McLaren ? Methinks they’re pretty much stuck with each other now whether they want to be or not . The only possible graceful separation being Honda once again walking away from F1 completely . In all honesty I have to admit to being absolutely shocked by Honda so severely underestimating what it would take to re-enter F1 successfully . Then again in light of Honda/Acura’s marketing and production cock ups over the last decade maybe that shouldn’t of been such a shock after all . As one automotive business pundit so well put it recently ; ” Honda/Acura has completely lost the plot “

    1. “Honda/Acura has completely lost the plot”

      Have you looked at the new Honda Accord Hybrid? It is an awesome sedan. When compared to Toyota Prius it gives almost same mileage but lots more horsepower. With the new US government mandates, Honda has to increase the fleet mileage of its vehicles to almost 50 in next decade or so. F1 will play a key part in Honda’s overall strategy to better develop their hybrid engines.

      Sure Honda is struggling at the moment in F1 but they are not as clueless as observers want to believe. They have the know-how and technical muscle to accomplish what they are pursuing. Unfortunately due to severe testing restrictions, they cannot accelerate their development beyond a point.

  26. Effectively if its too big for engine specialists then it is like handing over the control of F1 to the largest car manufacturers for free … is that really a good thing?

  27. For Honda it never rains but it pours, “TOKYO (Bloomberg) — Honda Motor Co., the automaker worst affected by the global safety crisis involving defective airbags, said it had used inflators made by a second company under investigation in the U.S. for suspected flaws.”
    My car also has inflators made by ARC Automotive, just waiting for the bang!

    For McLaren communications should be easier by 2020 when Honda’s official work language becomes English. Let us hope they are winning again by then.

    Off topic sorry. I note that Rob Smedley got an honorary Doctorate from Loughborough in recognition of his services to F1 Engineering, though an award for double-talk may have also been appropriate. Prof Stanley Unwin would have been proud of his efforts to confuse tv reporters over the years.

  28. To be frank, I don´t remember an embarrassment on this scale in F! in the last 50 years. From hopeless dreamer minnows, perhaps, but not from players.

    The absolute saddest thing is to see Alonso wasting his talent. Again. Times 10.

    Honda is perhaps not the company it was. Their last foray into F1 was so embarrassing that they paid to run away. Imagine that from Sochihiro !

    If this engine is genuinely the result of real effort and imagination on their part, then it´s unlikely that Honda has the way to fix it. This is not being rude, but observed from the story so far. 1/2 way through the season, the Honda engine is not near enough to reliability, power or driveability to even build a plan on.

    Maybe they should see if the BRM H16 can be sneaked into the car with judicious use of tokens.

    Win on Sunday…….what´s the message I´m missing from this débâcle?

    1. “What´s the message I´m missing from this débâcle?”

      The message you are missing is that you should never, ever, underestimate McLaren, and you should never, ever, underestimate Honda either. After Hamilton’s championship winning year at McLaren, the next season they had a dog of a car because they had flung everything at getting Hamilton over the championship winning line, at the expense of developing the new car. Usually, when you have a dog of a car, it stays that way all season. Despite having to wrestle with that and a simultaneous rule change, they got that car on the podium and winning races by the end of the year. Now I’m not saying that will happen this year – the hybrids are probably more technologically challenging that anything F1 has ever done. But there’s not always that much difference between having a performing car and an under-performing one. It’s about finding that precious needle in the haystack, and more than anybody, these two companies together are capable of finding it. I’ll put the oven on and get the ingredients together, in case we need to bake some humble pie……..

      1. Thanks for that Davey. Agreed, It won´t happen this year, we both know that history shows the time, performance and credibility gap here is so enormous we would have to re-write the parameters of everything, then still file under miracle. Besides, McLaren tells us so. Fighting stuff.

        But consider the possibility that it might not happen. So far, there is nothing to give hope. And the past is another country, as we know. 2009 is not the issue, nor an indicator of the future.

        First step in crisis is accept the reality. It is enormously bad, with no obvious fix after what is actually light years in F1 time (much faster than dog years). 7 or so months and races since the car was introduced, it is the back of grid dog it was at the beginning of the year. It is woefully unfit for purpose as a F1 car, wasting and devaluing two of the best F1 drivers of the last 10 years and damaging the brand of their employer.

        Almost entirely down to the Honda engine. Someone should panic, because it can´t get worse.

      2. Why? Nothing that Honda did in their last go at F1 or anything that McLaren have done in the last several years suggests that anybody should underestimate either of those two companies.It is going to take more than Ron and Eric’s PR waffle to convince anyone to put the humble pie oven on anytime soon. A shame, but I think both companies are in a very difficult place right now.

          1. Problem being there has been a lot of waiting and not much seeing Joe.

            Ok Honda McLaren have decalred 2015 as a “test year” but remember back to winter testing, year before last, when the Renault looked like it wouldn’t even do the parade lap? Come Adelaide Renault seemed to be able to, at least, do something…whereas Honda appears unable to do anything!

  29. I still believe that we will see McLaren on the podium by the end of the season. The combination of the two companies will not be at the bottom for long. From a Ferrari fan

    1. On the podium? I’d be thrilled to see them consistently make Q3 and have some top 10 finishes.

      The true agony in this case is watching 2 highly talented and competitive drivers wallowing in crap wagons, especially with their career windows inevitably closing.

  30. Correct Joe. Unlike Red Bull, they have not threatened to take their bat and ball and go home due to uncompetitiveness but have gone and found an engine partner and are trying to get back to the top. I speculate, but I would imagine Woking has spent more money on F1 than RB yet they (and others like Williams, Lotus, Sauber) keep plugging away and want to stay in the sport even when uncompetitive. Thankfully, in the past they did this also or F1 would have been a far different. No doubt this has been raised before, but thats what happens when you get a company owning an F1 team(s) whose first priority is to sell drinks. F1 needs real racers.

  31. Hi Joe,

    I have often thought that the difficulties two of the most illustrious engine makers are having delivering decent PUs should be used as an illustration of how challenging the PU formula is these days and what a great job Mercedes and latterly Ferrari are doing. Perverse as it may sound Honda and Renaults struggles should be used to demonstrate that f1 is now really the pinnacle of engineering. It might be a difficult pr message to get across but they should at least try.

    1. ^^ This.

      Also, some points I find lacking in most of what passes as ‘news’ regarding the ‘disappointment’ with McLaren Honda, are context, a realistic discussion of engine development time-lines, and perhaps even a little consideration of how Honda’s industrial mind-set might be playing a role.

      First — context. My understanding is that Honda didn’t decide to return to Formula 1 until two years after the other engine manufacturers had signed on to the new formula. So is it any wonder they’re still on the learning/development curve? And with this in mind, why would Eddie Jordan make comments, like he did on TV at the last race, conveying how inconceivable the situation is that McLaren has found itself in? So unless both McLaren and Honda had gotten everything 100% right and been on the podium, from the beginning, he and the nay-sayers wouldn’t be happy? Did everyone seriously expect Honda to make up for two years and there be zero issues? Or even in the first 6 months of this season? Considering the alphabet soup of elements (MG-U, MG-K, etc…) and complexity that make up these new power units, it seems amazing they work as well as they do.

      Second — thus far I recall reading only one news article discussing how long engine development takes. So there seems to be very little investigation, education of the public, or discussion on TV into this aspect. Add the fact that the internet gives no-nothings an amplified voice to trumpet ignorant and unrealistic expectations, and we have people expecting Honda to show up at the next race with a completely re-engineered power unit. It’s any wonder McLaren and Honda have to manage the message.

      Third — should we also consider whether Honda’s mind-set for “a passion for innovative thinking and continuous improvement” may be playing at least a small role? They’re attempting some different solutions, combined with an internal process of improvement that probably operates slower, with consensus, and more methodically than the speed at which Formula 1 rolls, and many Westerners expect. Again, I have to sarcastically ask… we didn’t learn a thing from watching Toyota slowly spend billions and get nowhere in F1? Now I believe Honda is and will be different, due to their history in F1, the reputation they have to reclaim, and because of a recent leadership change.

      All of this should reinforce DylanT’s comment of what a great job Mercedes has done.

      Joe – thanks for writing this article. It needed to be said!

  32. Someone asked about Ford and F1 last year and the answer was “Not interested”.

    CONCORD, N.C. – Despite recent buzz that Ford Racing may be making a return to Formula One, the Blue Oval’s racing boss Jamie Allison says absolutely not.

    “It’s not even on the radar,” said Allison, director, Ford Racing. “It’s not on the table and not even on the radar.

    “I can tell you that Formula One is not on our scope, period.”

    Want Government Motors to be even more hated than they are now? Then they should do an F1 program. “Yeah, we took all your bailout monies and now we’re pissing loads of cash away, so the Europeans can enjoy their sunday mornings a little more”.

  33. I really have no doubt that McLaren and Honda will ultimately produce a winning car together. The talents and competitive natures of the two companies are formidable. They’re down now, but not for long.

    And, it’s been interesting to contrast the relative civility of the McLaren operation with the churlishness of Red Bull. Anyone can be pleasant when things are going his way. It’s when the wheels come off that people reveal their true natures — and class (or lack thereof).

    When they were winning, Red Bull preened. Now that they’re losing, they whine loudly. In my opinion, it couldn’t happen to two nicer guys than Helmut and Dietrich. Schadenfreude, sure, and it feels so good. ; -)

  34. I think you are looking at the Honda of the past, the company has a myriad of problems including a lack lustre range of road cars.

      1. Could you please explain therefore how they manage to sell 4.3 million cars a year and to generate revenues of $119 billion with income of $5.7 billion?

          1. Your point? Honda exists to sell cars, motorcycles, engines etc. F1 is a minor part of that existence.

            1. Do you need a mower, chainsaw or a myriad of domestic, trade, industrial and even ag equipment. *WHEN* Honda are successful in F1 they will successfully use that success to sell ag water pumps.

              I never underestimate McLaren and if Macca have teamed up with Honda they have done so because Honda have committed to a project to win.

        1. I’m guessing he means cars that aren’t particularly exciting, not so much that the cars are rubbish. Toyota sell a whole lot of Corollas, but it’s hardly the kind of thing you’d have a poster of on your wall.

          Pretty sure just this or last week I read something that Honda are looking to put a little more excitement into their brand and their road offerings, with a new NSX and some sportier spec’d versions of other cars. And of course the step back into F1 is a part of that; although currently the most excitement we’re getting is in wondering whether or not they’ll be able to get at least one car through a whole session/race.

        2. I guess I don’t really see your point? I don’t think Honda’s “civilian” cars have been anything other than lackluster since their founding. There are, of course, exceptions (the NSX comes immediately to mind) but generally Honda builds solid, if not a little boring, cars. A kind of smaller, more agile Toyota.

          And none of this is bad! As you note, Honda’s done very well for itself by building solid, if not a little boring, cars, plowing a non-insignificant amount of money back into R&D making their solid, if not a little boring, cars, all a little bit better.

    1. Road cars?

      Honda is the largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines in the world.

      Not only road cars, but also motor cycles, boats, lawnmowers etc etc. So in fact Honda is more of an engine manufacturer than a road car manufacturer.

      And it’s a engine that they are building for McLaren.

  35. Hello Joe,

    a little off-topic: do you have any news concerning Ron’s acquisition of a majority stake in Mc Laren? It was a major point of interest a few months ago, as it seemed to impact on drivers’ choice. Shareholders – at the end of the day – are the ones who ultimately decides on results and deadlines to reach them. And this may impact the relationship with Honda (or at least the way this relationship is managed: Eric Boullier seems more impatient recently)

  36. The comment made that F1 has gone passed the possibility of specialist engine builders being able to enter the series, as Cosworth for the prime example, is just another nail in the coffin of the sport.
    The manufacturers will only stay whilst Boardroom whim and ego allows. Currently there is MB, Ferrari ( who would likely always stay ), Honda and Renault.
    Renault are on the bubble, if they buy a team then they’d stay, but if they don’t, I’d think it likely that they’d pull out totally, as the current engine would be no use badged like a Meccachrome for instance. Honda are in deep trouble, and who knows with the current management whether they will see the project through, or dump out as they did with Ross Brawn?
    With little or no competition, MB would probably not stay for long, leaving Ferrari servicing a field of maybe 12 cars…..exciting? No, I thought not!
    The logical idea would be to get back to some sensible tech, and attract Cosworth and others into the field….let the manufacturers come and go as they please, but don’t let them have an overall advantage over the likes of Williams, Sauber, Toro Rosso etc etc….oh, and get another 6 or 7 teams involved!

  37. I’m sure Cosworth would be happy to create an engine for F1 – they just need someone else to pay them to do it! IIRC Cosworth were approached to design and build an engine for the new Indy rules but when they came up with a proposal (and realistic price tag) none of the teams who had approached Cosworth was willing to spend the amount needed. The ‘Lotus’ Indy engine shows what happens if you try to do this stuff on the cheap!

    This is why we need more manufacturers in F1 – who else has pockets deep enough to justify this kind of development (or would benefit from any steps forward by integrating into road cars)?

    1. Cosworth did some work on an F1 engine for 2014. Renderings of the CAD Model were published in January last year, but I don’t know how much further the project was taken. (Source ‘Racecar Engineering’).

      There were some rumours that the Nissan GTR LMP engine in related to this, but all involved say that this is not true.

    2. Thing is RICCBATT, that there’s no need for an ICE to cost a fortune, just as there’s no need for an F1 car to cost one either. There is ample ability for such items to be built for a fraction of the costs given these days, and safety elements could still be incorporated in the build.
      The current situation is purely ” Emperors New Clothes ” syndrome. It allows for huge numbers of personnel, and in the case of manufacturers, that helps create Management Empires, that large company Managers are so fond of, for obvious reasons, that include Job Security and Remuneration.

      Of course, the design and build of a small number of racing engines, even with ordinary ICE tech, would be expensive, but with numerous uses, and expansion into differing racing environments, as Cosworth did successfully, would mean a low cost once there were more users.

      Fans wouldn’t know the difference as the old V10’s were faster than the current engines and a lot cheaper, so a revised modern unit of 8/10/12 cylinders or whatever, would not be ludicrously expensive as is the case now, nor subject to the electrical reliability issues that can ruin races now.

      F1 is not a technological powerhouse, and doesn’t need to be one. WEC can do all the high tech stuff, and be sometimes useful for marques in that direction. F1 could go back to being about the drivers and the chance for people like Frank Williams and many others, to have a race team and win GP’s. I maybe a dinosaur, but the F1 I grew up with was far more interesting than the Tabloid style rubbish of today. I’d like to see proper racing again, and the chance for young drivers like in the days of Gilles, Piquet and Tambay etc, to get on a grid and show what they could do, not just see the same old guys driving for 15-20 years and gradually sinking into oblivion as is the case now. Or the alternative at present, of drivers who just should not be there, but who have the tens of millions of dollars needed by the teams to keep the teams afloat.

      At present there is nothing I can get excited about, and that is why even my viewing experience over the last couple of years has subsided to occasional races on the box, rather than watching every single lap of every single race.

      It is all very well to say that things move on and F1 should be relevant to road cars but it simply isn’t and should not be. Road cars are headed to automation and driverless vehicles now, F1 could have done driverless in the early 1990’s but stepped back from that technology, rightly so. If F1 wants to slavishly follow road transport requirements, we shall end up in 20 years time, with the drivers in simulators, and driverless cars running like Drones on the tracks, all of which will be in some despotic dictatorship that can afford the series, and will just show Virtual Circuits….that may sound over the top, but could well happen, especially now Bernie is changing the geographical position of countries, so that he can say they are ” European “!!

      Of course everyone will follow Bernie till he turns up his toes, as he who pays the Piper calls the tunes and the teams are, in turn, enthralled by the money he gets them, and scared of offending him.

      Frankly, the whole fiasco is total rubbish imho!

      1. I agree that there is no need for engines to cost a stupid amount of money to design, develop and manufacture per se, but any new entrant would have to work to current F1 spec and regulations which is the would be the sticking point. The current specs for PSUs were after all developed with full backing of the teams so it is unlikely that (however logical it seems to us) they would give up this advantage. Even RBR would be absolutely against the relaxing of tokens, engine numbers, etc. – if they were winning …

        Having gone so far down this hybrid path, I find it difficult to see how the rules will ever be changed – in the political sense (technical change would be a piece of cake! ) I for one would dearly love to see the emergence of a Cosworth DFV version 2.0 which would shake up the field like the original did!

        1. I think you are right RICCBLATT, as the Teams have an outlook not unlike the EU. That organisation requires millions of people to suffer untold misery, so that the Leaders can enjoy an Alice in Wonderland Single Currency which will undoubtedly fail completely within the next 3-5 years.
          In F1 the Teams signed up to a ludicrous engine formula of huge expense, at a time when the rest of the World was still suffering from the largest and worst global financial disaster in 90 years.
          Like the EU, the Teams will carry on with their heads in the sand, until the bottom falls out of the sand bucket and they wake up to no fans and no sponsors and no circuits…….

  38. Joe,
    If only Honda were making the engines for a team that also had a mid-engine road car so the F1 engine could spend 1000’s of hours pounding round being tested…
    Because if they were, there really would be no excuse for not taking this opportunity and instead running it purely on a test rig and wondering why the real World is a little different! 😉

  39. Joe, great to read something other than ill informed speculation on the situation. F1 is hard, and Honda should be applauded for taking on this challenge. Irrespective of the outcome there will be a technical legacy from this project that will feed into tomorrow’s road cars. Sure, Honda underestimated the challenge but let’s not underestimate their response (Mr McNish et Al.) or the benefits that will come outside of F1. As for McLaren, Fernando put it aptly when he said the tough journey will make success taste even sweeter when it comes.

    1. I agree we should applaud and encourage Honda. And the teams should be out there, talking others into the sport. The power units are exactly what the world needs, the port’s marketing reach and penetration is phenomenal, and as the formula matures, the racing will get better (and cheaper). The manufacturers the better…

  40. Ah yes, and now for something completely different as the MP circus said. Honda have had design and development engine expertise at the highest level for decades so that doesnt appear to be a problem. I would suggest that the root cause is related to the unique axial flow turbocharger as trying to straighten that air supply out in time to get a consistent even distribution to each cylinder would be impossible. A/F ratios all over the universe. The high rate of flow and subsequent inertia could be the Davy Jones’ locker on this one. It isn’t a ME109.

  41. Honda’s rich heritage… Hmmm. Build a pretty handy first generation turbo engine at a point where Ferrari, BMW and Porsche had units that were pretty long in the tooth. Follow up with a V10 that was the class of the field in 89 & 90 (pedalled by the two fastest drivers in the world at that time). Replace it with a thirsty V12 that was no better than the V10’s supplied to Tyrrell… Then withdraw because Renault were now the power unit to have. Not my idea of a fine racing heritage.

    Hondas 21st century performance is not even worthy of mention so far!

    I seriously fear for McLaren. A dearth of corporate stickers on the car and a leader who looks to be struggling to turn around the super tanker.

  42. Out on the enter-tubes are some great stories of Jack Brabham and Honda. Honda struggled in the beginning but never stopped improving until they had a winner.

  43. The biggest part of Alan McNish’s argument seems to be that Honda and McLaren didn’t speak the same language (and to be honest, I doubt anybody besides Ron can understand Ronspeak). The Japanese took words literally and apparently it never occured to mr McNish to be little more careful about his phrasing.

    It reminded me of the BBC’s periodical Kimi bashing where they go on about how he never says anything, just before showing an interview where he tells the reporter everything she wanted to know, only in a very subdued manner.

    The only thing to be said about Honda is indeed “wait and see”. Maybe it’s true what Boullier suggested and they only need to solve a few reliability puzzles before they can start to tap the PU’s true potential. Maybe they need an entirely new approach.

  44. Just read Allan McNish’s article… the pedant in me compels me to point out some errors. Ferrari weren’t the only other team running a turbo engine. Megatron (BMW), Zakspeed and Osella (Alfa) were also present.

    Also the picture caption showing a Honda engineer working on an engine in 1988 is actually working on a V10 NA unit…

    Not like the BBC to be that shoddy!

  45. Joe, who people put out stories like this or of james Allison under pressure for seat at Ferrari? surely both needs time. its pretty easy to say to its too early, premature to put out these two stories.

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