Honda confirmed its return to Formula One from 2015 with McLaren, renewing the partnership that was one of F1’s most successful in its past.
The 1.6L turbocharged engine formula that premieres next year has piqued Honda’s interest for its latest return to the sport. The manufacturer pulled out at the end of 2008.
“Ever since its establishment, Honda has been a company which grows by taking on challenges in racing,” said Takanobu Ito, President and CEO of Honda Motor Company.
“Honda has a long history of advancing our technologies and nurturing our people by participating in the world’s most prestigious automobile racing series.
“The new F1 regulations with their significant environmental focus will inspire even greater development of our own advanced technologies and this is central to our participation in F1.”
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren’s team principal and Group CEO, added his thoughts on the return.
“It’s fantastic news for everyone who loves Formula One to be able to welcome Honda back,” he said. “Together, we’re about to embark on a new and extremely exciting chapter in McLaren’s history. Like McLaren, Honda is a company with motor racing woven into the fabric of its heritage.”
McLaren is going through the midst of major change as an organization; title sponsor Vodafone leaves at the end of this year and now Mercedes-Benz, its engine partner since 1995 (although a customer since 2009), will end its relationship after a 20-year period at the end of 2014. Honda had been rumored for a return back in March.
This is not an exclusive partnership, and Honda will be able and willing to assist other teams as well, according to Autosport.
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.