The 2018 season marks the beginning of a new era for Honda Racing.
Heading into the first Grand Prix of the year with our new partners Scuderia Toro Rosso, we’re eager to get back on the track and test our new Power Unit in the heat of battle. Our Formula 1 project is built on our founder, Soichiro’s Honda’s, original relentless determination to succeed in Formula 1, and our constant striving for perfection. Now, in combination with the ambitious Toro Rosso Team we’re excited about this new chapter on our journey to success.
Our story started a long time ago – but we never stop learning and evolving…
Our Formula 1 story began in 1962, two years before our first Grand Prix.
When Soichiro Honda decided to enter the then European-dominated series, it was a big step up for us. The person appointed to the project, Hideo Sugiura, had concerns about how to approach a challenge of such scale.
The wisest words came from Yoshihito Kudo, who oversaw the research programme. He reassured Hideo that “Everyone’s a beginner at first.”
Having already tasted success in professional motorcycle racing, we entered Formula 1 hungry for more.
And, just four years after we produced our first road cars we unveiled the now legendary Honda RA271. This became the first Japanese car to race in Formula 1, the most demanding four-wheeled motorsport competition in the world. Powered by a 1.5 litre V12 engine, we were one of only a few teams that built both the Power Unit and chassis.
It was purebred; Honda through and through, and sent shockwaves through the European dominated world of F1.
A year we’ll never forget. 1965 saw driver Richie Ginther join the Honda ranks, accompanied by the unveiling of the Honda RA272. Famous for its roaring 48-valve V12 water-cooled engine, it produced 230bhp and had notably rapid acceleration.
At the last race of the year, Ginther blitzed the Mexican Grand Prix to lead all the way from lights out to the chequered flag – and claim Honda’s first ever F1 Victory. It was a momentous win for us, but there was still work to do.
From not knowing what Formula 1 was to the near-immediate success that followed, it felt like our journey was going as fast as the racing.
Soichiro Honda always held that 99% of success was failure - and we felt it. Although engine changes allowed us to develop, we grew increasingly frustrated as the season went on with an overweight car. At the 9th race of the 1967 season we brought in a brand-new car to Monza - the iconic RA300.
Sitting within the cigar-shaped chassis, the car was powered by a 48-valve, V12 Honda engine complete with a beautiful ‘waterfall’ exhaust arrangement.
In a hair-raising final lap, John Surtees powered from 3rd to 1st to take home the top spot - and our second ever Formula 1 win.
The extraordinary win helped us secure 4th place overall in the constructors championship. Our best yet.
Just as we seemed to be finding our stride in Formula 1, there were problems that needed to be dealt with off the track. With new U.S emissions legislation presenting fresh challenges for our road cars, Honda bowed out of the sport.
After 15 years, F1’s technological evolution coaxed us back to the paddock.
Returning as an engine supplier to challenger team Spirit Racing – similar to our current position as a Power Unit supplier to Toro Rosso now – our revival took the form of the 1.5 litre V6 turbo RA163E. Electronically-controlled fuel injection technology was introduced and our newly developed PGM-FI was resulting in cleaner combustion and better fuel efficiency.
Success was not instant, but we’ve never been quitters. It felt good to be back.
By 1984, chances taken were once more paying off - Keke Rosberg won the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix in a Honda-powered Williams, bringing us back to the top step of the podium.
As before however, we weren’t satisfied just to win.
The grit of our RA166E V6 turbo engine was ruling the track. The Williams-Honda FW11 was considered one of the most powerful cars of the ’86 season pushing out over a 1,000bhp.
Despite missing the Drivers’ win by just two points with Nigel Mansell, we were over the moon to take home the Constructors’ Championship. This year marked the beginning of a golden era for Honda.
In ’87, our time had come. Powering both Lotus and Williams, we claimed the Drivers’ and Constructors’ World Championships. Nelson Piquet pipped Nigel Mansell to the title, with Ayrton in the Lotus finishing third. It was the victory Soichiro Honda had always dreamt of.
In 1988, our winning streak kept on coming.
After several years of growing success, a partnership with McLaren took our engines to the very front of the field. The formidable teammate pairing of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna won 15 out of 16 races on that years’ calendar, with the turbocharged RA168-E V6 – not unlike today’s F1 engines - seemingly unbeatable.
Ayrton took the Drivers’ Championship and we claimed the Constructors’ once again.
In the season of ‘89, turbos were banned.
Whilst the competition opted for V8 and V12 power, we chose a V10. A strategy that triumphed. The McLaren-Honda team bagged the Constructors’ Championship yet again – this time with Prost taking the Drivers’ title. Silverware galore.
Prost sealed the Championship with 11 podium finishes, whilst Senna tailed him by just 16 points.
Stepping back to supply Engines to independent racing teams from behind the scenes, we were truly able to reflect on all that we’d achieved.
We powered 69 race wins from 1983 until 1992 - a win ratio of over 40%. When we left Formula 1 in 1992, it was a challenge conquered - for now.
We returned to F1 to once again test our development in 2000, supplying engines to BAR.
Formula 1 had changed in our absence - with new circuits and more constructors in the field, we found ourselves beginners again. Giving our drivers the opportunity to join us in learning, we relished working with Takuma Sato during his F1 test debut.
With the BAR-Honda team in its 4th season, we took 2nd place in the Constructors’ Championship. Jenson Button finished 3rd in the Drivers’ standings, claiming 10 podium finishes for the team.
In 2005 we bought out BAR and took on running a factory Formula 1 team for the first time in nearly half a century.
It was a big commitment, but one that eventually brought the rewards of hard work when Jenson Button took the first victory of his career at the Hungarian Grand Prix in ’06. It might have taken longer than our first two tries, but we knew that development had paid off. The RA106 - the car that powered him to the number 1 spot - was considered one of the most powerful of the new V8 design.
After Jenson’s dramatic victory in the wet, we went on to finish fourth in the Constructors’ Championship that year.
In 2007 we unveiled a unique new approach to our livery.
Heading into the season we knew that we wanted to promote the importance of the environment. So, working with our sponsors we styled our car with just a single image of planet Earth – free of traditional advertising.
It certainly made a stir. Today, F1 incorporates efficiency as a core technological challenge.
With the global recession hitting hard, our customer business needed all of our focus. In order to strengthen Honda, we regrettably had to withdraw from Formula 1.
“If Honda does not race, there is no Honda.” - Soichiro Honda
From 2014, Formula 1 made the switch to hybrid Power Units. Rather than using the pure combustion engine, drivers were now propelled around the track by a new, efficient, 1.6 litre turbocharged engine. The lure of the sport proved irresistible and we were back on the grid in 2015.
Re-igniting one of the most famous racing partnerships to ever touch the tarmac, Honda teamed back up with McLaren to tackle fine-tuning the new complex systems.