One of the most successful engine manufacturers in Formula One history with over 70 race wins, Honda have participated as an entrant, constructor and engine supplier for various periods since their first involvement back in 1964. In only their second year of competition, the team gained its coveted first victory at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix. Two years later, the Honda RA300 won the Italian Grand Prix on its first Formula One appearance in a season where, despite only having one driver, the team finished fourth in the constructors’ championship. A fatal accident for driver Jo Schlesser the following season prompted Honda’s first withdrawal from Formula One.
The marque’s first return to the sport was in 1983, supplying engines to Spirit, Williams, Lotus, McLaren and Tyrrell over the next decade, often to multiple teams per season. Honda’s first win as a supplier came in the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix and signalled the start of an incoming period of dominance. Between 1986 and 1991, Honda-powered cars won six World Constructors’ championships, two with Williams and four with McLaren, and five drivers’ championships, two by Nelson Piquet and three for Ayrton Senna. One of the most dominant seasons in F1 history came in 1988, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost recorded a 93.8% win rate in their Honda-powered McLarens, featuring a period of 11 straight wins, and a points tally of 199. This was three times more than the other constructors and remained a record until 2002. Honda decided to leave the sport for a second time after the 1992 season in response to the worldwide recession.
Honda returned yet again in 2000, providing engines to BAR and Jordon Grand Prix over the next five years. BAR’s best season came in 2004 where, despite the dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, BAR finished second in the championship. In late 2005, Honda purchased the remaining share of BAR to become the Honda Racing F1 Team. After a promising first season, in which future world champion Jenson Button would score his first ever victory, progress was disappointing and, in 2008, Honda again withdrew from the sport, unwilling to invest heavily during another global financial crisis. In total the team had scored 106 Constructors’ points over their three seasons. Ironically, the team’s previous investment into the following season’s car birthed the Brawn BGP 001 which went on to win the 2009 Championship.
Honda’s current involvement in Formula One started in 2015 with an ill-fated three-year period with McLaren. Failing to recreate the McLaren-Honda glory days of the 80s and early 90s, there was a very public PR battle between Honda, McLaren and former world champion driver Fernando Alonso. After failing to show signs of improvement, the partnership dissolved after the 2017 season.
Honda moved into a new partnership with Scuderia Toro Rosso, the junior Red Bull team and, after a very promising season in which the engine outperformed the senior team’s Renault power units, Red Bull made the decision to introduce Honda engines into the fray. The 2019 season showed great progress, bringing Honda’s first win since 2006. In October 2020, Honda announced it was to leave Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season, due to the transformation of the car industry away from internal combustion engines.