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.
Carlos Sainz Jr. has been airlifted to hospital after a big crash during the final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning.
Under braking at turn 13, Sainz lost the backend of his Toro Rosso car, causing him to hit the left-hand wall before slamming into the TecPro barrier at the end of the run-off area.
The session was immediately red flagged as medical crews tended to Sainz, taking 20 minutes to extricate him from the Toro Rosso car due to how it had pitched under the barrier.
FIA media delegate Matteo Bonciani told reporters: “The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated. When we know something, we will let you know.”
After being extricated from the car, Sainz was taken away on a stretcher before being placed in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up to let fans know that he was okay. He is also reported to have been talking to doctors in the medical centre after the crash.
Sainz has now been airlifted to hospital for further checks, and is set to miss qualifying later today, with Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost telling BBC Sport: “To sit him in the car immediately seems a bit risky, but we will wait and see.”
The damage caused to the TecPro barrier has also caused the planned GP3 race to be cancelled, giving the track workers time to carry out repairs ahead of the F1 qualifying session later today.
Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday.
Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday morning as the session was called early following a heavy crash for Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr.
With 25 minutes remaining, the session was stopped when Sainz slammed into the wall at turn 13, pitching in under the TecPro barrier at the fastest point of the circuit.
A loss of power on the car meant that Toro Rosso could not make contact with its driver, causing concern as the medical crew was sent to the crash site to tend to Sainz.
Replays showed that Spaniard lost the back-end of his car under braking coming into turn 13, causing him to hit the wall on the left-hand side of the track before travelling down the track and into the wall at the end of the high-speed straight.
After being extricated from the car, Sainz was shown on TV cameras to be moving around on a stretcher, giving a thumbs up before being placed into an ambulance.
“The driver is conscious and is still in the process of being extricated,” FIA media chief Matteo Bonciani told reporters. “When we know something, we will let you know.”
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost added: “As far as I am informed, he is conscious. He is now with the doctor. I think that he is so far okay.”
With qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix due to start in just two hours’ time, it is unlikely that Sainz will be able to take part in the session, with Tost believing it to be “too risky”.
The amount of damage caused to the barrier could also result in delays across the course of Saturday’s running, with GP3 scheduled to race before the F1 qualifying session. The early sunset in Sochi could also cause problems towards the end of the day.