Formula 1: McLaren-Honda Partnership Is a Recipe for Success

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2013

Ayrton Senna in his 1988 McLaren-Honda
Ayrton Senna in his 1988 McLaren-HondaPascal Rondeau/Getty Images

McLaren have agreed a deal with Honda for the Japanese company to supply them with engines from the start of the 2015 season.

The multi-year deal will rekindle one of the most successful partnerships in recent Formula One history. Of the 80 races between 1988 and 1992, McLaren Hondas won 44 of them.

They also took 53 poles, set 30 fastest laps and won the drivers' and constructors' titles four times in a row.

Of course, Honda's other recent foray into the world of F1 (2000-2005 as an engine supplier, 2006-2008 as a constructor) was a bit of a disaster, but no one was mentioning that as the press releases were issued.

Honda stated that changes to the engine regulations being introduced are key to their decision to return. Honda CEO Takanobu Ito said in a statement:

Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series. The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1.

We have the greatest respect for the FIA’s decision to introduce these new regulations that are both highly challenging but also attractive to manufacturers that pursue environmental technologies and to Formula One Group, which has developed F1 into a high value, top car racing category supported by enthusiastic fans.

McLaren will continue to use Mercedes engines in 2014—the first year in which the new 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines will be used.

Honda's decision to come in a year later may put them at an initial disadvantage. They'll certainly put in the work on simulations and testing, but there's no substitute for real, on-track racing action. For all the pedigree, 2015 may be a tough year.

But while immediate success may not happen, it should be only a matter of time. Bringing together one of F1's top teams and the world's largest engine manufacturer, the deal is a very positive long-term stepon both the financial and competitive sides of the business.

The arrangement McLaren have with Mercedes is a "customer" contract. The British manufacturer pays a significant amountaround £8m ($12.2m) in 2013, likely to rise next yearfor their engines.

The Honda partnership is a "works" deal, meaning the engines will be supplied free of charge.

Mercedes also have their own team, and in the modern era "second teams" of engine suppliers have rarely tasted success. The last time was in 1995, when Michael Schumacher's Benetton-Renault (and even they were a second works team) defeated the Williams cars.

That was, incidentally, the year the McLaren-Mercedes partnership began.

But while leaving such a long relationship may sound daunting to us humans, F1 teams aren't known for their emotional attachments or sentimentality.

One expects the only tears shed will be over the potential loss of McLaren's beautiful silver paint jobs.


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