New regulations crucial in Honda’s decision to return to F1

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After leaving the sport at the end of 2008, Honda is ready to make its return to Formula 1 next season with McLaren as the lure of going green proved to be too great to ignore.

For the first time since it was confirmed that the Japanese manufacturer would be powering the British team next season, a representative has appeared in the FIA press conference. Chief Officer of Motorsports Yasuhisa Arai faced the media on Friday in Shanghai, and revealed more information about Honda’s plans for the next few years.

“One of the major reasons for our decision was the new regulation introduced this year and that the various environment,” Arai explained. “I mean green technologies in the new Formula 1 power unit, as well as the total energy management are both very challenging and significant.

“The new regulation encourages each power unit supplier to pursue the ultimate combustions efficiency and high pressure direct injections, such as many, many new technology.

“Thus the challenge is to convert each unit of gasoline into energy and this is expected to be reflected on the huge production mode. That’s the reason why.”

The new regulations have been met with mixed responses, but in this case it is clear that they are doing some good. Honda will become the fourth engine supplier on the grid for 2015 alongside Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes, but for season one it will only be working with McLaren.

“For 2015, McLaren is our only customer,” Arai confirmed. “I don’t think about the future, because we want to concentrate on next season.

“If teams want to use our engine or power unit, we can deliver after year 2016 but right now there are no plans.”

Honda’s F1 operations are set to be run from Milton Keynes in England, and Arai confirmed that the factory will open in two months’ time.

“That, we will open June this year,” he said. “Now still under construction but that factory is to do the engine maintenance for the races and rebuilding the Formula 1 engine and also to go to the race-track for the trackside service. That’s Milton Keynes.”

The rekindling of the McLaren-Honda partnership undoubtedly stirs memories of their success in the late 1980s with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and although it might not quite reach such dizzy heights this time around, it certainly has the potential to take McLaren back to the very front of the field.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski