It was not a major surprise last week when Japanese car manufacturer Honda announced that it will return to Formula One in 2015 by supplying engines to McLaren. It wasn’t quite the worst-kept secret in the sport having been openly discussed for months in advance of the announcement. Writing in the City A.M. newspaper Pitpass’ business editor Christian Sylt reveals which manufacturer F1’s boss Bernie Ecclestone thinks will be next to sign up
Honda’s departure from F1 in December 2008 was one of the worst-timed decisions in F1 as its team went on to win the world championship the following year. The catalyst for its return is the expiry at the end of next year of McLaren’s engine supply agreement with Mercedes. In addition, new engine regulations are due to come into effect next year which will level the playing field as all manufacturers will have to start from scratch. The new regulations will force teams to switch from 2.4 litre V8 engines to more environmentally-friendly 1.6 litre turbocharged V6s. It has attracted Honda and Ecclestone says BMW could be next.
The German car manufacturer bought Sauber in 2005 and spent an estimated £505m on its bid for F1 victory. It only won one race and in 2009 the recession pushed it out of the sport. BMW ended up selling the team back to its founder Peter Sauber but Ecclestone says it could return.
“I would be surprised if we don’t see BMW again,” he says adding “I think they could come in. The amount of money they spent was not significant in the grand scheme of things. It makes sense for them to return.”
Ecclestone admits that the new engine regulations are an attraction to new manufacturers but he says that doesn’t mean they will be good for F1. The new engines are expected to lose the high-pitched screaming noise which F1 has become famous for and Ecclestone believes that this could put fans off visiting races. However, he says it is too late to change them.
“The engines are fixed now like it or not. We have got what we have got so we have to keep our fingers’ crossed,” he says. It remains to be seen whether we will actually see the new engines next year.
A report this month in a UK F1 magazine suggests that the brewing dispute between Renault and F1’s commercial rightsholder could force the French manufacturer out of the sport. It claims if that happens then Mercedes, Ferrari and Cosworth will have to “step into the breach until Honda arrives on the scene in 2015.” It then quotes an unnamed team principal saying this could mean that in 2014 “it’s back to V8s.”
Time will tell whether that happens.