The last three years Honda was in F1 came as both a constructor and engine partner. Some highlights were sprinkled in during an otherwise troublesome period.
The RA106 was among the most powerful of the new V8 engines that came into play starting in 2006, the technical period that ends at the final round of this year. But unreliability punctuated the year for Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello; technical management shakeups included Geoff Willis being reassigned to the factory and Shuhei Nakamoto being named new technical director. Barrichello had moved to Honda after his six-year stint as Ferrari number 2 to Michael Schumacher ended.
Things came right in the second half of the year with Button’s fortuitous if well-judged first career win in the rain of Hungary in 2006, and Barrichello with one of several fourth place finishes.
Come 2007, the withdrawal of sponsor British American Tobacco left Honda with a car basically devoid of primary sponsors. The “myearthdream” campaign, with an “Earth”-liveried though, was a nightmare for the team.
Aerodynamic issues plagued the car all year. Button scored only six points – four of them in the another rain-affected race in China with fifth place – while Barrichello went scoreless.
Things were little better in 2008, although this time Barrichello maximized the performance in a rain-affected race. He finished third in the 2008 British Grand Prix, in what was Honda’s last F1 podium.
Honda pulled the plug on its satellite team, Super Aguri F1, after four races in 2008. The plucky underdogs had grown a following thanks to some of the more amateurish pay-drivers in its first year (Yuji Ide and Sakon Yamamoto), but Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson had punched above their weight on occasion. Sato’s 2007 Canadian Grand Prix stood out in particular, when he finished sixth after a pass of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren.
The factory team met the same fate at the end of 2008. The Brawn GP grew from Honda’s ashes, with developmental work done on Brawn’s 2009 car thanks to ex-Super Aguri staff members among others. It was a case of “what might have been” for Honda, but it did allow the team to continue with both Button and Barrichello resurrecting their careers.
Cue the jokes about how Texas Motor Speedway’s new Verizon IndyCar Series race title sponsor, Rainguard Water Sealers, was a year late, as track drying delays from rain helped postpone this year’s race from June to August.
But the new title sponsor is on board for the next three years, through whatever weather exists at TMS. Which is a good thing, because it confirms both the race and the sponsor through 2019.
“We extremely pleased to have Texas Motor Speedway and ‘America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race’ serve as the initial sponsorship venture into motorsports and sports in general for Rainguard Water Sealers,” Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway president, said in a release. “We look forward to providing Rainguard with an exceptional first experience as an entitlement sponsor and help the company attain their goals through this sponsorship agreement.”
Firestone has been the race’s title sponsor of what is now the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 since 2010. Prior to that, Bombardier Learjet sponsored the race from 2005 to 2009, when Texas dropped from having two races on the annual IndyCar calendar down to one.
Rainguard was founded in 1969 as a manufacturer of architectural grade coatings used in the construction industry, and developed speciality sealer products starting in 2010.
After a decade off the Formula 1 calendar, the French Grand Prix has been formally confirmed to return in 2018. The race was confirmed at a press conference in France on Monday, after reports emerged late last week it was coming back.
The race, which was at Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours from the 1990s through to the most recent race there in 2008, will be held at Circuit Paul Ricard (Le Castellet) instead. Paul Ricard though was the site host for 14 races between 1971 and 1990.
Christian Estrosi, the president of the regional authority of Provence and the Cote d’Azur, announced the deal for the race which is likely to be held in late July. That time frame had featured the German Grand Prix along withe Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 2017 calendar was only just confirmed following the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council last week, with a drop to 20 races following the German race’s departure.
With the French Grand Prix back on, that would kick the number of races back up to 21 for 2018 unless another shoe drops and another race falls back off the calendar instead.
More to follow…
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed their final Formula 1 run-outs of 2016 on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, taking part in a special demonstration for the Ferrari Finali Mondiali.
The Finali Mondiali acts as the world final for the continental Ferrari Challenge series, bringing together competitors from the North America, Europe and Asia Pacific championships.
As part of the weekend’s running, Vettel and Raikkonen were on hand to complete demonstration laps behind the wheel of recent Ferrari F1 cars, with Vettel also completing some donuts in front of the main granstand at Daytona.
Here are some of the videos and pictures from the event.
Sebastian Vettel has brushed off suggestions that he could take Nico Rosberg’s vacant Formula 1 seat at Mercedes next year, saying his focus lies on working with Ferrari to improve on their 2016 season.
Rosberg sensationally announced on Friday that he would be retiring from F1 with immediate effect, just five days after winning his maiden World Championship.
Rosberg’s move has sent the driver market into a late flux, with Mercedes’ Niki Lauda claiming that half of the F1 grid has been in touch regarding the seat despite many of them having contracts.
Vettel has been named as a possible candidate for Rosberg’s seat despite having one year remaining on his Ferrari deal, but when speaking at the Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway, the German stressed he is focused on his current commitments at Maranello.
“I think it’s no secret the fact that me and Kimi Raikkonen have a contract for next season,” Vettel is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Kimi and I are already committed. In 2017 we will be competitive.
“We have not reached the goal this year, but now it will be important to do the job at the factory in the next two months.
“I am confident that we will definitely present an improved package.”
Vettel signed off with a message to Rosberg, wishing the retiring champion “happy holidays!”
Vettel finished 2016 fourth in the drivers’ championship without a win to his name as Ferrari struggled to keep up with Mercedes and Red Bull in the pecking order.
Mercedes is set to begin its search for a replacement on Monday, with the other big-name driver besides Vettel linked to the seat being McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Should Mercedes want to promote one of its junior drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon are both also available, although neither has more than a season of F1 experience.