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Honda’s latest return part of its cyclical history in F1

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Off and on, Honda’s history in Formula One dates back to 1964. As Formula One evolves, so too does Honda’s participation in the sport.

Development of the RA271, a fully Honda-built engine and chassis, began in 1962 with its race debut in 1964. Richie Ginther took Honda’s first win in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix in an RA272. The iconic white and red car built for that era was one of three on display at Thursday morning’s announcement.

Honda also famously won the 1967 Italian Grand Prix with John Surtees in the RA300 in the car’s first race; the car had been partially designed by Lola.

Tragedy stopped Honda’s first F1 voyage in its tracks; Jo Schlesser’s death in the 1968 French Grand Prix precipitated Honda’s first departure.

It returned as an engine partner in 1983, first with Spirit and later with Lotus, McLaren, Tyrrell and Williams. That 10-year run through 1992 was Honda’s most successful period in the sport, thanks to its accolades achieved with McLaren from 1988 through ’92.

Honda was only loosely associated with F1 from 1993 through 1999, in partnership with independents Mugen. There were still four race wins in that period with Ligier (Olivier Panis, 1996 Monaco) and three with Jordan.

An effort to re-enter on its own in 1999 was aborted due to another death of recruited technical director and designer Harvey Postlethwaite.

But in 2000, Honda re-entered once again, first with BAR and then Jordan. Jordan lost its Honda deal at the end of 2002 with Takuma Sato’s departure playing a role, and struggled for the final three years of its existence (2003-05) to find suitable engine partners and drivers.

Honda, having finished second as an engine partner to BAR in 2004, was keen to re-enter on its own in the era of heavy manufacturer participation (Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Jaguar) and did so when it bought out the remaining shares of BAR in 2005.

Although Jenson Button recorded his first win as a driver, and Honda its first as a constructor since 1967, the three years Honda ran the ex-BAR team were peppered with technical staff shakeups, frustrations, and a noteworthy loss of funding with British American Tobacco’s withdrawal at the end of 2006.

Honda pulled out at the end of 2008 ahead of the next set of new F1 regs and car design, in play since 2009. Ross Brawn led a management buyout to keep the team afloat with a new  engine supplier, and with development of the 2009 car the main focus of 2008, Button and Brawn GP scored the World Championships.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.