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.

Even with half the purse and no fans, Indy 500 still has major team value

Indy 500 purse fans
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Even with reportedly half the purse and no fans in attendance, NTT IndyCar Series driver-owner Ed Carpenter believes it remains “absolutely critical” to hold the 104th Indy 500.

“Far and away it’s what makes and breaks our season as teams,” the Ed Carpenter Racing namesake told reporters during a Zoom media availability last week. “It’s the most important event to our partners. It 100 percent sucks not having fans there and not even being able to have the experience with our partners in full being there. But it’s necessary.

“We’ve got to look at all the hard decisions now of what we have to do to be in a position to have fans in 2021. It’s critical for the health of the teams that we have this race to make sure we have teams back here next year. That sounds a little dramatic, but that’s the reality.

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“We live in not only a very volatile world right now, but our industry and motorsport in general, it’s not an easy business to operate. When you lose your marquee event, it’s a lot different than looking at losing Portland on the schedule or Barber. They’re in totally different atmospheres as far as the importance to us and our partners.”

Robin Miller reported on RACER.com that IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske told team owners last week the purse for the postponed Indianapolis 500 was slashed from $15 to $7.5 million. Miller reported holding the Aug. 23 race (1 p.m. ET, NBC) would be a $20 million hit to the bottom line.

Carpenter still is supportive of Penske’s “outstanding job” of leading the series through the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Even with a 50 percent purse reduction, the Indy 500 remains the linchpin of teams’ economic viability.

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The schedule has taken many hits with the cancellation of races at Barber Motorsports Park, Circuit of the Americas, Detroit, Portland International Raceway, Laguna Seca and Toronto, and another race weekend doubleheader at Mid-Ohio has been indefinitely postponed.

That leaves the 2020 slate at 12 confirmed races of an original 17, which has raised questions about how many races teams need to fulfill sponsor obligations.

“It’s a moving target,” said Carpenter, who announced the U.S. Space Force as a new sponsor for the Indy 500. “I think we’ve been pretty blessed as a team with the level of commitment of our partners and their understanding of COVID-19 and the impact on our schedule, our contracts.

“All of it is out of our control, out of the series’ control, the promoter’s control. At the end of the day is there a firm number (of races) I can give? No. But definitely every one that we lose, it does make it harder to continue having those conversations.

I think everyone’s as confident as you can be right now with what we have in front of us with what’s remaining on the schedule. Things are so fluid, it changes day-to-day, let alone week-to-week. We just have to take it as it comes. Right now the focus is on the 500 and maximizing this month to the best we possibly can given the situation.”

That’ll be hard this month for Carpenter, who grew up in Indianapolis and is the stepson of Tony George, whose family owned Indianapolis Motor Speedway for decades.

Having spent a lifetime around the Brickyard, Carpenter will feel the ache of missing fans as he races in his 17th Indy 500.

Ed Carpenter, shown racing his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet at Iowa Speedway last month, led a race-high 65 laps and finished second in the 2018 Indy 500 (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

“Over that time you develop relationships that are centered around standing outside of your garage in Gasoline Alley,” he said. “It stinks, it sucks that we don’t get to share that passion we all have that is the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately it’s the reality we’re in right now.

I think this is the best that we can do unfortunately. Without a doubt it’s going to be a different environment. You’re going to be missing the sounds and a lot of the sights and colors. For sure I’ve thought about it. It’s going to be a different morning, different lead-in to the race. After 16 of them, you have a cadence and anticipation for the buildup. That’s all going to be different this year.

“I’m confident it’s not going to affect the type of show we put on or the excitement and how aggressive we are fighting for an Indy 500 win. It’s still going to mean the same thing. We’re just not going to have our fans to celebrate with after the fact. But it’s going to be historic.”