Japan, essentially has been a part of the automotive sector since the advent of the wheel and Honda is one such brand that immediately relates with this country. From extensive in-house research to making its commercial products ranging from sports cars to luxury vehicles available in every part of the world, Honda has made its presence felt globally with its product reach. But all this wouldn’t be worth a mention if Honda’s Formula One exploits were not spoken of, for it is this very platform where Honda engineers push themselves to their limits just to materialize a nanosecond advantage of speed. Based in the UK, in the facilities of former British American Racing, this team shells out millions of dollars every year in developing sterling aerodynamics, efficient racing engines and shrewd strategies to stay on top of the game.
Honda, to its own surprise made an overwhelming entry in Formula One in 1963, just three years after building its first commercial road car. With Honda’s RA271 engine came not only an all-Japanese team, save the two American drivers Ronnie Bucknum and Richie Ginther, but also a chassis with Japan written all over it, a practice that was only in Ferrari’s domain. With Ginther winning the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix and John Surtees the 1967 Italian Grand Prix, Honda was already amongst the front runners. Just like there is no smoke without fire, in F1 of the eighties, there was no glory without a Honda engine. Despite putting up a good show, Honda withdrew from Formula One soon after 1967, only to come back in 1983, mainly as engine suppliers for Spirit. They also teamed up with players like Lotus, McLaren and Williams. By the end of the 1992 season, Honda-powered cars credited themselves with 71 victories in F1.
Honda, from 1993 to 1998 worked from behind the scenes in F1, only supplying engines to teams like Jordan, Prost and Ligier and by 1999 won 4 Grand Prix with their engines on song. In 2000, they provided engines to BAR and to Jordan in 2001 and 2002. They acquired 45% stake in BAR team in 2004 after terminating their supply to Jordan in 2003. They won two races in the 2004 season.
The trademark whites and blues of Honda were back to racing in 2005 after buying out the remaining 55% of BAR, to then being known as BAR-Honda. It championed the red colors of Lucky Strike, a cigarette brand by British American Tobacco for the 2006 edition of F1. Jenson Button and Takuma Sato in the 2005 season did not race to the expectations of BAR-Honda with Sato just managing to gather a single point in the whole season. Sato was replaced by Brazilian Rubens Barichello after his exit from Ferrari in 2006 and together with Button, Honda managed to drive in 86 points for the team with three victories.
With the 2007 and 2008 season not going their way in terms of car set up coupled with soaring prices in the racing world due to the major hit that the world economy has taken, Honda have decided to withdraw racing in the 2009 edition of F1.
Having proved themselves for almost half a century, Honda remains with nothing else to prove just like Formula One has nothing more to ask from this truly fantastic team.