McLaren and Honda are set to rekindle the glory days of the Eighties and Nineties when their legendary alliance became one of the greatest in Formula One history.
Started in 1988, when Ayrton Senna moved from Lotus to partner Alain Prost, then the dominant force in the sport, the partnership created arguably the most successful racing car of all time: the Honda turbo V6-powered McLaren MP4/4, which swept all before it in Senna's and Prost's hands and won 15 of the 16 grands prix that year to take the Brazilian to his first of three world championships. After Prost beat Senna to the title in 1989, the Brazilian went on to win two more championships with V12 and V10 Honda-powered McLarens in 1990 and '91 before finishing fourth to Nigel Mansell's more technically advanced Williams Renault in 1992.
Between 1988 and 1992, McLaren and Honda won eight world championships – four drivers' and four constructors' - and took 44 wins, 53 pole positions and 30 fastest laps – all in just 80 grands prix. The acrimonious struggles between Senna and Prost in 1988 and especially in '89, have become part of the sport's fabric.
Today McLaren and Honda confirmed long-running rumours that they will renew their partnership in the second season of the new Formula One, which comes into force in 2014 and will cater for cars with 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged engines and advanced energy-harnessing powertrains.
Martin Whitmarsh, the chief executive of McLaren Group and the F1 team principal, said: "It's fantastic news for everyone who loves Formula One to be able to welcome Honda back. Together, we're about to embark on a new and extremely exciting chapter in McLaren's history.
"The names of McLaren and Honda are synonymous with success in Formula One, and, for everyone who works for both companies, the weight of our past achievements together lies heavily on our shoulders. But it's a mark of the ambition and resolve we both share that we want once again to take McLaren-Honda to the very pinnacle of Formula One success. Together we have a great legacy – and we're utterly committed to maintaining it.
"Like McLaren, Honda is a company with motor racing woven into the fabric of its heritage. We're proud and thrilled to be joining forces once more to take on the world."
McLaren's decision to switch from former partner Mercedes, from whom they repurchased the German company's shareholding in 2009 when Mercedes struck out on their own to purchase the Brawn team, has nothing to do with the current uncompetitive form of the McLaren MP4-28 which, in updated form was good enough only for an eighth place finish in Jenson Button's hands in last weekend's Spanish GP. Together, McLaren and Mercedes have won four World Championships, two in 1997 and one in 1998 and 2008, and 78 grands prix to date with the likes of Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard, Lewis Hamilton and Button.
A former Honda team driver who scored his first win, the Hungarian GP in 2006, with Honda power, Button said: "I grew up watching McLaren-Honda cars racing and winning around the world – they wrote their own glorious chapter of Formula One history. Even now, picturing those unmistakable red-and-white cars evokes vivid memories of some of the most dramatic and exciting motor racing the world has ever seen.
"McLaren-Honda: I know how much passion, success and pride are encapsulated within just those two words. And that's why I'm so thrilled and excited about what's not only a fantastic opportunity for the team, but also a great development for Formula One fans and the sport as a whole."
Ayrton Senna joined McLaren and Alain Prost in 1988 and Senna won the first of his three World Championships in his first season, the Brazilian's others coming in 1990 and 1991. Prost also won three Championships for the team, in 1985, 1986 and 1989.