Thursday, 16 May 2013

Best News of the Year so far: Honda is Returning to F1

Like the unlucky guy who scrimps, saves and suffers to earn the trip of lifetime only to have it cancelled when the weather turns it was hard not to feel for Honda’s plight when they departed from F1 at the end of 2008. For almost a decade they had carefully felt their way back into F1 with Jordan F1 and BAR Racing before setting up the full factory Honda Team. Alas after a solitary win in 2005 the economic weather became too violent for 2009 so they sold up and left. But here’s the kicker: the car they had pre-prepared for 2009 turned out to be best car on the grid and won the 2009 Championships under the guise of Brawn GP who had bought the remainder of Honda after 2008. In short, Honda bowed out at precisely the wrong time. You may say that Honda is a large soulless entity who were only ever in F1 to exploit the brand. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Honda have been in F1 since the 60’s and have run their affairs in typical Japanese style. That is to say; understated, modest and praiseworthy. Their return to F1 in 2015 is welcome and comes about as a result of major changes to engine regulations from 2014. Out go the 2.4 litre V12 units in favour of 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines. Honda has already begun working on their engine meaning they should have an advantage over the rest of the field who will be tweaking their 2014 engines till the season's last race. We are happy to see Honda back but there is a a twist: they return as an engine supplier and not as a factory team. This is not bad news because they are supplying McLaren. That’s right the partnership that ran from 1988 to 1992 producing arguably some of the most memorable F1 cars ever produced such as the 1988 McLaren Honda which won 15 of 16 Grand Prix that season. The partnership is also synonymous with the Prost – Senna rivalry. Welcome back Honda we cannot wait.

A Class Above

What’s got four wheels, will be used in every financial district from London to Beijing, bears lineage to every oil magnate the world over and has the pride of the German automotive industry resting on its shoulders? The latest Mercedes S-Class. The archetypal executive saloon has donned its latest suit in “W222” form. Gone are the aggressive rear haunches of the 2007 model in favour of a svelte curve stretching its flanks. This preference for modest clean lines over aggressive body stance is perhaps of reflective the different economic environs the models were conceived in; less being more and all that. You may have noticed that there are less buyers around these days for such uber-saloons with the times we live in. However; the world is a large place and this car is in demand, especially in China. The S-Class has always strived to lead the way in technology innovation with many of its features trickling down through the years to lesser models; airbags and anti-lock braking being some of them. So what is Mercedes showing us now that we can we expect to see as standard in ten years time?  Magic Body Control for one. Cameras mounted in the windscreen scan the road surface ahead to detect bumps and will adjust the cars suspension and dampers accordingly before you reach it. Will this be optional in a Ford Focus in future? Don’t bet against it. The headline news for this generation S-Class is the tailoring of the car towards Eastern buyers who have a preference for rear legroom. To this end the car has been manufactured to accommodate 3 different wheelbase lengths with an emphasis on raising standard luxury paradigms. This model has set the industry standard in luxury four door saloons for decades. Mercedes has given itself big boots to fill. There’s plenty of room for them in the rear.