‘Mutual respect’ caused Honda’s issues with McLaren

Jamie Woodhouse
Fernando Alonso driving for McLaren. United States, October 2015.

Fernando Alonso driving for McLaren in the wet at the United States Grand Prix. October 2015.

Honda think communication issues, born out of huge respect between themselves and McLaren, contributed to their failed reunion.

Hopes were high for McLaren when they moved on from Mercedes power to re-unite with Honda for 2015.

The pair had previously enjoyed great success together between 1988 and 1992 as McLaren collected four Honda-powered Constructors’ titles in the space of five seasons.

There was great optimism then when Honda returned as an engine manufacturer alongside McLaren in 2015, the Woking team looking to bounce back from a 2014 campaign that yielded only two podiums.

The reunion did not get close though to recapturing former glories, with poor reliability and inferior power output meaning McLaren failed to finish on the podium in their three-year stint back with Honda before they parted ways at the end of 2017.

And the main problem Honda felt was not a lack of mutual respect. Instead, there was too much.

Quoted by Motorsport.com, Honda’s Formula 1 boss Masashi Yamamoto said: “Starting from McLaren days, we have learned a lot from them but we think we had a mutual respect too much.

“That’s why we had maybe a shortness, a little bit, of communication and then it was a shame the project didn’t go well.”

Ironically, it was after the McLaren relationship had ended that Honda began to find their footing again in Formula 1.

Linking up with Toro Rosso, Honda did enough with Red Bull’s junior team to convince the parent outfit to also go with Honda power from 2019.

Red Bull returned to the summit of the Drivers’ Championship in 2021 courtesy of Max Verstappen. But in a recurring theme, Honda have now left Formula 1 once more, with the company instead focusing on their carbon-neutral project.

Honda will assist Red Bull next season, but development of the engine will be the team’s responsibility following the formation of Red Bull Powertrains.

“Leaving F1 was a very big decision for Honda, and was for the carbon-neutral and also for the customers all over the world,” Yamamoto explained.

“Although we had good results this year, we never had a discussion to stay here.”


Asked to pick a highlight from Honda’s most recent F1 stint, Yamamoto, speaking before Max Verstappen’s World Championship triumph, said: “The best moment for me is the Australian Grand Prix in 2019, the first podium with Red Bull Racing. Also, of course, 2019 Austria, the first win with Red Bull.”