Honda can’t even leave F1 properly

I truly feel deeply sorry for anyone who follows / followed the Honda F1 team. The team has been a walking joke for years. The events of the past few months have shown that Honda can’t even disappear from F1 without making a total hash-job of it.

It wasn’t always like this. Of course, the BAR team was always a bit of a loony show. Expertly (ahem!) led by a ski instructor, the team was a shambles. They couldn’t even get their livery done correctly.

But things took an upswing towards the middle of this decade. David Richards hauled the team up the grid and in 2004 BAR’s performances were consistent enough to earn it 2nd place in the Constructors’ Championship on merit. Then David Richards left.

He was replaced with Nick Fry, a smirking, over-confident fool who seemingly couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag. At round 4 of the 2005 Formula 1 Championship, the team was caught out when an illegal second fuel tank was discovered. After that point, the team’s performance plummeted for some reason.

Since then, Honda have bought the team outright. You would have thought that would be a good thing. Oh no. Those clever people decided to bring in a motorbike designer, Shuhei Nakamoto, with minimal experience with designing cars, as technical director. He replaced the perfectly competent Geoff Willis, who now works at Red Bull Racing. After Nakamoto’s disastrous design was unveiled, Honda spent two years in P-nowhere. Can’t think why.

2009 was supposed to be better than this. They had brought in Ross Brawn specifically to make 2009 better than this. This was going to be Honda’s big comeback year! We could see what the man who masterminded every single one of Michael Schumacher’s World Championships could do. Then Honda pulled the plug on the entire F1 project mere months before lift off.

Now, fair enough. Honda can’t exactly help economic circumstances and if they need to make cutbacks (even just for cosmetic reasons) then that is just the reality they face. But have they managed to do it in a vaguely dignified way? Of course not. This is the Honda F1 team. They make a botch job of everything.

If anyone can make head or tail of all the contradictory news stories about Honda that have emerged over the past week or so, could you please explain all because I am at a complete loss. The deadline of the end of January has long been forgotten about. The management buyout was supposed to have been done and dusted by now.

Now, having seen off all of the other potential buyers with all the talk of a management buyout, something seems to have gone badly wrong. Rumour after rumour has emerged over the past week or so, and it seems as though the Honda team don’t have a clue what they are doing.

A week or so ago I read that, despite the fact that things had gone quiet on the Honda front, things were looking up for the team. Since then, there has been an explosion of peculiar rumours that suggests that all is not well.

First of all, it was rumoured that Bruno Senna had signed for the team, that Honda would continue to supply limited funding and that Bernie Ecclestone would provide further financial backing. But it turned out that Bernie can’t supply funding to Honda, even if he wanted to.

Then we were told that Honda had secured backing for the first four races of the season, mostly as a result of funds raised from Petrobras via Bruno Senna. But the four races thing sounded ominously similar to Super Aguri’s 2008 season.

Petrobras poured cold water on the suggestions pretty quickly, pointing out that not only are they not interested in Honda, but they don’t do driver sponsorships either. So the rumours were a load of hogwash all along.

But all was not lost!, we were told. Honda were in talks with a major company that could provide solid backing and had a reputable brand that was known worldwide. James Allen revealed that the company could be Virgin. Grandprix.com outlined why a deal with Virgin could make sense, because of the links between Richard Branson, Adrian Reynard and the Honda F1 team.

But then Pitpass phoned up Virgin, whose Brand Development and Corporate Affairs Director, Will Whitehorn, was very negative about the idea. And that it was Honda who approached Virgin, not the other way round.

Now Reuters have reported that the deal is possibly on. The BBC have since reported that a Honda spokesperson has now confirmed that talks with Virgin are under way.

In out, in out, shake it all about. Part of me wonders if Honda are deliberately spreading these rumours just to try and generate some interest in the team. To be scrabbling around like this with mere weeks until the beginning of the season is not good.

Then there are the engines. Soon after Honda announced their withdrawal, Ross Brawn practically said that an engine deal with Ferrari was a given, which was news to the Scuderia. Now apparently only Mercedes are interested, and that is only if they can be guaranteed that Honda have “bulletproof” backing. Which Honda clearly do not have.

Even if they do get it together by the start of the season, Honda’s prospects for the 2009 season are utterly doomed. Even if the car is fundamentally good, the late change of engine supplier is bound to result in reliability problems, as pointed out by James Allen. Honda will also arrive in Melbourne having had very little testing.

It is such a shame. 2009 was supposed to be Honda’s comeback year. They had literally given up on 2008 so that they could focus on 2009, and I was genuinely excited to see what they could come up with. Unfortunately, if there is one thing you can rely on in F1, it is that Nick Fry and his merry men are 100% guaranteed to cock it up. What a shame.

See also F1 Wolf’s Honda rumours summary post

12 comments

  1. <blockquote2009 was supposed to be Honda’s comeback year. They had literally given up on 2008 so that they could focus on 2009, and I was genuinely excited to see what they could come up with.
    Couldn’t agree more.

    I’m surprised by how optimistic many people are about Honda appearing on the grid this year, when it all looks so negative.

    Rumour is the land the factory is built on isn’t even owned by Honda, because Fry wasn’t able to get Adrian Reynard to sell it to him. This is, inevitably, putting people off the idea of buying a factory built on it.

    But at the end of it all it’s the staff I feel most sorry for. Since they had that win in 2006 everything’s has gone wrong for them. I do hope they get bought, but I’m not confident.

  2. I think a large part of Honda’s downward spiral was the attempt to Japanese-ise the team – let this be a warning to Team America if/when they enter F1.

    And when they realised the folly of their way & got in staff who knew what they were doing as opposed to just being Japanese – instead of making their big comeback they pull the pin. And on the eve of the launch of the Clarity FCX as well, just when they need the advertising & PR. Good one.

    The whole Honda withdrawal was a debacle from start – well I was going to say finish, but it appears it is not over yet πŸ™

  3. Clive — Nick Fry has a fan club? Yikes! πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, I find it hard to take him seriously. The Honda car could melt while it was on the track and Nick Fry would just grin and say how much things are looking up for Honda!!

    I dearly hope that Honda makes it to the grid this season. I would never want to see an 18-car grid, and of course it is terrible that the staff of the team have to go through this just now.

    I find it difficult to understand why no-one seems to be up to buying the Honda F1 team. Even in the current circumstances, the Honda set up is surely a bargain at Β£1 and with running costs set to decrease significantly.

  4. “I find it difficult to understand why no-one seems to be up to buying the Honda F1 team.”

    Well, the problem may be that whoever wanted to buy the team wanted it without Fry. That might have lead to that (mis)management lead buy out idea – the only way for Fry to keep his job.

    The Β£1 to buy the team is not the issue. The issue is thoe millions required to run the team that Mr. Fry would like to manage …

  5. And today they have said: “Don’t forget, we could still go under.”

    I paraphrase, but it does make you wonder. Why build up everyone’s hopes with all this talk of bidders and deals, and then say it could all go wrong.

    As you point out, they must be trying to stir up interest, but they clearly don’t understand the effect it is having on the fans.

    Either announce something, or stay quiet, I say.

  6. “the problem may be that whoever wanted to buy the team wanted it without Fry”

    You took the words out of my mouth. It was my biggest fear from the first day I heard about the Honda team going for sale, and so far those fears have come true. I deeply hope they make to Melbourne, but only if Fry gets out of the picture and the team have a good prospect for the future.

    By the way Duncan, it is good to read you again πŸ™‚

  7. I’ll bet this comment does nor get posted, lol.

    You must be feeling a bit stupid right now as Nick and Ross have made an absolute rubbish of your comments. Not to mention the many gross inaccuracies in them.

    build

  8. I don’t understand your comment, build. This post was about Honda mismanagement. It says almost nothing about Ross Brawn, and what I say about Nick Fry (who is curiously low-profile these days) still stands. Indeed, the fact that the team became the best on the grid as soon as Honda left rather makes my point for me.