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.
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