Honda's initial entry into F1 came in 1964, also with a plain white car. Four years later, with only two wins to their name, they withdrew. But in 1983 they returned as engine suppliers to the Williams and McLaren teams, with whom they won several world championships. In 1991 a recession threatened Japanese industry and prompted a second withdrawal. But now the commercial climate is judged appropriate for a full-scale return.
Their strategy is to spend an entire year testing their prototype, under the direction of Harvey Postlethwaite, the English designer formerly associated with Hesketh, Tyrrell and Ferrari, before making a competitive debut. Driven by Jos Verstappen, the talented young Dutchman, the car shocked its putative competitors by posting the fastest times throughout a three- day open test session at Jerez in late January. Suspecting that the Honda was being run beneath the permitted minimum weight limit, or otherwise infringing regulations, other teams demanded a rule to prevent such demoralising - and, more importantly, publicity-hogging - behaviour. Postlethwaite refused to comment on those accusations yesterday. "We're just getting on with doing what we want to do," he said.
Of this season's contenders, only Benetton ran their cars yesterday. The remainder of the British-based teams - McLaren, Williams, Jordan, Arrows, Stewart and the new BAR outfit - are expected today and tomorrow for final tests before crating up their brand-new cars and shipping them to Melbourne for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, a week on Sunday.Reuse content