In the 1980s, Honda returned as an engine supplier to such teams as Lotus, Williams and McLaren. By the end of the decade, Honda was the engine to have, helping to earn six constructor championships and and five driver championships (including three from Ayrton Senna, the driver most closely associated with Honda’s F1 efforts).
Honda left Formula One in 1992, returning to the sport as an engine builder in 2000. Though it supplied various teams through the 2005 season, Honda never again realized the success it enjoyed in the late 1980s. At the end of 2005, Honda bought out the assets of British American Racing (BAR), and it returned as Honda F1 Racing in 2006.
Running cars in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons, Honda spent a significant amount of money without realizing the benefits of success. Given the global financial situation at the end of 2008, Honda was forced to shut down its F1 efforts, selling the assets to Ross Brawn, whose Brawn GP would claim both driver and constructor championships in 2009.
Now, Honda’s head of R&D, Yoshiharu Yamamoto, has told Autocar that he hopes Honda can one day “take part again” in Formula One racing. In his words, “I do not personally think we can just go straight back immediately, but there is potential for the rules to change and attract us.”
Could it mean that Honda is eyeing a return to Formula One after engines are downsized to turbocharged 1.6-liter units in 2014? Honda has recently shifted its focus to developing turbocharged engines for the European market, so it’s clearly developing technology that could be ported over to racing.
We suppose that anything is possible, although Hondas return to F1 is anything but imminent. As Yamamoto explains, “This is my personal view - not that of Honda - but I feel the first thing we must do is win in the WTCC, and then perhaps we can look further afield.”