Japanese car manufacturer Honda is understood to be planning an F1 return in 2015, targeting a deal with British team Mclaren to supply them with engines when options on the team’s current contract with Mercedes come up for renewal.
The previous relationship between the two companies led to an unparalleled level of domination in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, with the combination winning all but one race of the 1988 season.
Honda, who last participated in the sport in 2008, has been ‘studying’ an F1 return, in the words of President Takanobu Ito and sees a partnership with the 2008 World Championship winning squad as the ideal way to re-enter the sport after the introduction of more fuel-efficient turbo engines beginning in 2014. Honda initially cited high running costs of the V8 powerplants used between 2006 and 2013 as part of their original reason for pulling out.
Mclaren, for their part, have refused to comment on what they call ‘media rumours’ about potential partnerships with new business partners.
There are key links between elements within both Mclaren and Honda that would mean such a deal could be imaginable if Mercedes do not push hard enough to retain Mclaren in 2015 when their contract shifts to a one-year option basis. 2009 World Champion Jenson Button drove for the Honda team between 2006 and 2008 and won the only race for the marque in its new guise at the rain-hit 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Honda last supplied engines to Mclaren in 1992, before they withdrew from the sport as an engine supplier until 1997 when they powered the Prost team under the Mugen-Honda brand.
Mclaren were Mercedes Benz main partners between 1996 and 2009, before the resurrection of the Mercedes F1 team led to the British team becoming a ‘customer’ rather than ‘works’ team for the German engines. Mika Hakkinen won the world title in both 1998 and 1999 with Mercedes power, and Mercedes also delivered the last (to date) constructors title for Mclaren in 1998. Lewis Hamilton won the 2008 World Championship with Mclaren-Mercedes power, before Jenson Button triumphed in 2009 in a Brawn car originally designed as the Honda RA109.
Should Honda return to Formula One, they will be the first major manufacturer to provide engines since the 2009 departure of BMW and Toyota as the turbulent financial crisis deepened the worldwide recession and affected car sales.