Honda Steering Back Into Formula One Racing - A Sign The Japanese Automaker Is Ready To Play With These New Smaller Engines

on May 16 2013 11:48 AM

Come 2015, Honda Motor Co Ltd (TYO:7267) will be back on the racetrack with its old teammate, McLaren. Honda and McLaren won four Formula One world championships between 1988 and 1992 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost behind the steering wheels.

The announcement marks a return of Honda to the F1 circuit. Honda pulled out in 2008 after the global auto market took a turn for the worse. The company thinks the new F1 regulations on smaller engines will give it an edge.

McLaren said Thursday it would use a 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 that Honda is currently developing at a facility in Tochigi, Japan, for the 2015 racing season. This will replace McLaren’s current partnership with Mercedes after the 2014 season.

McLaren is the historic second-best team in F1 behind Ferrari but hasn't won a world championship since 2008. Mercedes was expected to end its relationship with McLaren after next season. Adding to McLaren’s woes is the loss of its corporate sponsor Vodafone Group plc (LON:VOD).

Honda pulled out of high performance racing in 2008 amid the global downturn in the auto industry coupled with the crippling strength of the yen that hobbled the company.

This will end Honda’s six-season F1 absence and will help reinvigorate the Japanese’s automaker’s high performance credibility. At a press conference in Toyo Thursday, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito said the changes to the F1 regulations calling for the smaller turbo engines is a main reason why it was lured back to the circuit. Honda, he said, would have an edge on the new specs, which include advanced energy recovery systems.

“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,” Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of McLaren Group, said in announcing the partnership.

Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7267) pulled out of F1 in 2009 and has not made any announcement regarding its return.

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