The much-hyped rumour that Honda will be returning to the F1 fold under the next generation of engine regulations is now truth, following a press conference that confirmed its return – and a reunion with McLaren.
As expected, the deal will take effect from the start of the 2015 season, as McLaren has a year to run on its existing agreement with Mercedes.
The rumour mill began cranking out stories of a possible McLaren-Honda return back in February, although suggestions that the Japanese marque would be joining Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes was played down by the former's Rob White as recently as last month. When McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh refused to comment on rumours that the Woking squad had not taken up an extension on its current contract, however, the speculation stepped up a notch. Yesterday, the Japanese media then began to suggest that an announcement was imminent, culminating in the press conference – broadcast online – that confirmed the deal.
Honda's return not only renews an association that was one of the most successful in F1 history as Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna the combination to titles during the 1980s and '90s, but also sees Honda step back into an arena it vacated as a full-blown constructor six seasons ago. It also signals the reappearance of Honda turbo power, harking back to the days when it took the technology to new heights of both output and efficiency.
“Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing,” company president and CEO Takanobu Ito remarked, “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.”
Honda will build its all-new 1.6-litre V6 at its R&D facility in Tochigi, where development is already underway, but has not yet confirmed whether its deal with McLaren is exclusive to the Woking squad. F1 regulations stipulate that any manufacturer wanting to provide engines to the top flight needs to supply a minimum of two teams, and there are other teams who have both expressed an interest in the marque's return and/or continue to seek an engine partner for 2014.
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, and to Bernie Ecclestone, the CEO of Formula One Group, who showed great understanding and co-operation to help realise our participation in F1 racing,” Ito continued.
“The corporate slogan of Honda is 'The Power of Dreams'. This slogan represents our strong desire to pursue and realise our dreams together with our customers and fans. Together with McLaren, one of the most distinguished F1 constructors, Honda will mark a new beginning in our challenges in F1.”