Honda Australia says the brand’s return to Formula One for the 2015 season will be an opportunity to remind locals of its motorsport heritage.
Honda Australia’s announcement comes amid McLaren-Honda’s confirmation yesterday, after weeks of delays, that former Ferrari driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso (second from the right above), and existing McLaren driver Jensen Button (one-time world champion and second from the left) will team up next season. Button's team-mate this past year, Kevin Magnussen (centre), will take up a role as reserve driver.
The McLaren team separates from Mercedes-Benz powered engines, which dominated this year’s championship, to reform a partnership with Honda as a works team.
“Since the news that Honda would be returning to F1 was announced, the Honda family in Australia has been incredibly excited and supportive. The Honda Australia team in Melbourne has been working with our dealer network to ensure our customers get the most from our return to the pinnacle of motorsport and we are thrilled that the first race is on home soil,” said Honda Australia director Stephen Collins.
Round one on the F1 calendar takes place in Melbourne.
Honda has had a chequered history in Formula One, with next year’s return marking the third time Honda has pulled out and returned to the sport as a constructor.
It started back in 1964 as Honda R&D Company, which saw the racing team leave the sport in 1968 as a result of Honda driver Jo Schlesser’s fatal accident during the 1968 French Grand Prix.
The Japanese giant returned in 1983 as an engine supplier to teams such as Williams and McLaren and its engines helped win the championship in 1986-7 with Williams-Honda and from 1988-1991 with McLaren-Honda (with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost as the drivers). Honda then left the sport in 1992.
Honda supplied engines through Mugen motorsports to Footwork, Lotus, Ligier, Prost and Jordan teams between 1993-1998, before attempting to return to Formula One as a constructor in 1999 with well-known technical engineer and designer Harvey Postlethwaite. But his death (from a heart attack) during testing put the project on hold.
Nonetheless, Honda returned as an official engine supplier in 2000, providing engines for British American Racing (BAR) which Honda owned by 2005 and renamed Honda Racing.
Honda left Formula One at the worst possible time, announcing in December 2008 that it was leaving due to the global financial crisis. The Honda Racing team was sold to team principal Ross Brawn in February 2009 and went on to win the constructors and driver’s championship (with Jensen Button) that year under Brawn racing.
Next year's alliance with McLaren sees the two companies rekindle their relationship after 21 years. The first test for Honda at the post-season Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (picture above) didn't go so well, with the Honda F1 test car managing just three laps due to technical issues.