Honda to revive partnership with McLaren after confirming Formula One return

Honda has confirmed it will return to Formula One in 2015 as an engine supplier for the McLaren team.

Honda has confirmed it will return to Formula One in 2015 as an engine supplier for the McLaren team.

The news, which has been widely rumoured for several months, means McLaren's existing engine partnership with Mercedes-Benz, which began in 1995, will come to an end in 2014. McLaren had been seeking an alternative engine partner after becoming a customer of the German manufacturer, paying for its engines – reputedly €15 million annually – for the first time this year.

McLaren previously enjoyed a hugely successful relationship with Honda between 1988 and 1992, during which time Ayrton Senna won all three of his world championships driving for the team. In all, the partnership accrued 44 victories from 80 starts.

Honda's most recent involvement in Formula One was as an outright team owner. Following a dismal season in 2008, however, it took the decision to withdraw from the sport entirely. Despite effectively bankrolling the new incarnation of its team, which was renamed Brawn GP after a management buyout, the Japanese manufacturer was unable to take any of the glory when Jenson Button won the world championship the very next year.

Honda has been enticed back into the sport by Formula One's new engine regulations, which come into effect next year. It will develop a 1.6 litre V6 turbo engine for McLaren from its research and development facility in Tochigi, Japan.

“Like McLaren, Honda is a company with motor racing woven into the fabric of its heritage. We’re proud and thrilled to be joining forces once more to take on the world in Formula One,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who was in Japan for Thursday’s announcement.

“Whilst both companies are fully aware that we’re embarking on a very demanding journey together, we’re hugely committed to the success of the partnership, and we'll spend the next 18 months working together to ensure that we’re fully established and competitive ahead of our first grand prix together in 2015.”

Takanobu Ito, the president and chief executive of Honda Motor Co., added: “The new Formula One regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in Formula One.

“We have the greatest respect for the FIA’s decision to introduce these new regulations that are both highly challenging but also attractive to manufacturers that pursue environmental technologies and to Formula One Group, which has developed Formula One into a high value, top car racing category supported by enthusiastic fans.”

No financial details of the partnership were revealed but it is likely that Honda will seek at least one customer team in order to offset the development costs of its new engine. The fundamental changes to Formula One's engine rules have proved controversial, with teams said to be concerned about the huge costs involved. According to one German report last weekend Renault is likely to charge between €20 million and €23 million for a supply, with Mercedes charging €17 million to €19 million and Ferrari offering the cheapest option at somewhere between €15 million and €17 million.

With British manufacturer Cosworth not designing a 2014-specification engine, Honda will become Formula One’s fourth engine manufacturer.

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