Honda is an engine and vehicle manufacturer with a long and illustrious history in Formula One behind it. In fact, the Japanese brand has been involved at this pinnacle of global motorsport for various periods since as long ago as 1964.
There have been real highs and some lows for Honda as an engine supplier in Formula One over the years. Between 1986 and 1991 Honda supplied the engines to the winning team for six successive years, two with Williams and four years with McLaren.
Honda also had a successful stint supplying engines to BAR and Jordan between 2000 and 2005, but after returning to supply McLaren in 2015, what turned out to be a challenging reacquaintance ended after a difficult 2017 season.
Present and future
It was announced in September 2017 that Honda would become the engine supplier to Toro Rosso, the sister team to Red Bull Racing. The partnership quickly proved fruitful with a fourth place finish in Bahrain, which was Honda's best result since its latest return to Formula One in 2015.
In June of 2018 it was announced that Honda would now be supplying engines to the Red Bull Racing team for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, which means Honda will be supplying engines to two teams at once in Formula One for the first time since 2008. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen believes the custom engine build for the car will prove a significant advantage in 2019 and 2020. And it certainly should be after Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley help Honda fast-track the development of the unit ahead of then. Meanwhile Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he is "hugely impressed by the effort, commitment, desire, determination to succeed that there is in Honda".
Toro Rosso and Honda
There could have been some misgivings about Toro Rosso using Honda engines as things didn't work out particularly well with Honda's last period of supplying McLaren. Any concerns will now have been forgotten though as the partnership with Toro Rosso is already paying off. Team advisor and former racing driver, Helmut Marko, believes McLaren's loss is very much Toro Rosso's gain as Honda is now poised to unleash the full potential of its incredible development facility in Sakura, Japan.
Marko told Australia's Servus TV: "With Toro Rosso everything is working perfectly. Next year Honda will make a much bigger effort. They have a development centre in Sakura which nobody can keep up with. The Japanese have a different culture and a different way of working. You learn that over time.
"Our approach with Honda is different than McLaren's. They were telling them how they wanted the engine to be built, we just say, 'build the fastest engine possible for us, then we will try to fit it into the chassis’. We don't have any demands, we discuss everything together."
On choosing to go with Honda and part company with Renault, Marko admitted: "We have lost faith in Renault. Honda is a partner who is committed, has the financial and technical resources, and we are the number one team for them."
When we watch an F1 race it's easy and natural to concentrate on the cars, the drivers, the pit crew and support staff we see at the Grand Prix. However, what we see on race day is just a small percentage of the huge operation it takes to put a pair of Formula One cars on the track successfully. Team principal Franz Tost gave us a brief tour of the team's factory and headquarters. The team at the track may be the most visible aspect of the operation, but the bulk of the work takes place on a bustling industrial estate located on the outskirts of the town of Faenza in northern Italy.
The first of the rooms we're taken to sees work being carried out on suspension components for the Toro Rosso cars, each of which is rigorously tested before and after every race. Then we're shown the operation room, which is where a sizeable group of engineers remotely monitor the cars during the race in minute detail, and pass the vital data collected to the team at the track to help them and the drivers make the right racing decisions.
After that we're taken through a variety of different production and testing areas, although the race cars themselves are not on site on the day of the filming. Tost's favourite part of the production process is the 3D-printing section. This is where raw materials are almost magically turned by computers and printers into cutting-edge high performance components for some of the world's most advanced cars. This illustrates one of the most important reasons for the astronomical amounts of money spent by teams and suppliers on Formula One, which is the development of technologies that will one day trickle down into the cars we all use every day.
Even if you're not a committed fan of Formula One and you think the amount of money lavished on the glamorous sport is over the top, you don’t have to look far to realise it's actually money well spent. The Honda NSX was a legend in its first incarnation, but now it's been reborn as a hybrid supercar it's not difficult to see just how much of its inspiration, design, technology and engineering has come straight from the Grand Prix circuit. Although F1 didn’t invent hybrid technology, the way the sport has embraced it and refined it means quicker, more efficient and better cars in our showrooms to buy much sooner than would have been the case otherwise.
The NSX would be an impressive enough performer if it just had its 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, which develops 500bhp between 6500rpm and 7500rpm and 406 lb.-ft. of torque between 2000rpm and 6000rpm. But it's the addition of an electric motor contributing an extra 47bhp and 109 lb.-ft., and a twin electric motor setup at the front producing 47bhp and 54 lb.-ft. that makes this a really special car. Oh yes, and there's also the magnetic ride dampers, Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and Direct Yaw Control to mention too. Shall we go on?
Of course you don’t need the reputed 2.9-second 0-60mph time or the 191mph top speed of the NSX to appreciate what Formula One technology has done to make motoring better, safer and more enjoyable than it would have been without it. The all-conquering CR-V crossover SUV will soon be available with an advanced hybrid powertrain that uses tech derived from the circuit. And on a more humble note, you know the ABS brakes and fuel injection found in every Jazz, Civic and HR-V? Yes, that's right; you owe most of that to Formula One too.
(Images: Alamy.com, Shutterstock.com, Honda)