Debate: Who’s to blame at Honda?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Honda nose, Fuji Speedway, 2007 | HondaRacingF1.comHonda will end the year behind Super Aguri if they don’t out-score them by three points over the next two races. Given that they’ve only scored two so far, it’s not looking good.

The season has been a catastrophe for the Japanese team and drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.

What’s gone wrong? Who’s to blame? And can they turn it around for next year?

Honda ended 2006 on a high. Button out scored every other driver over the final six races and took his maiden win at the Hungaroring.

But the RA107 has been a disastrous car and the attempts to improve it have yielded little. A planned upgrade for the Fuji Speedway was scrapped when it made little effect on the car’s performance.

Designer Shuhei Nakamoto has shouldered some of the responsibility for the car’s problems, admitting his background in motorcycle engineering (where aerodynamics are used solely to reduce drag and not to generate downforce) did not make him best suited for designing an F1 car. So why is Nakamoto still doing the same job.

Button has said that the difficult year will make the team stronger: “It’s about not making the same mistakes again. The same goes for the team as well as for every individual. If you make the same mistakes again, you are a fool. It’s that simple. We should learn from our slips and become stronger.”

But should Button carry some of the blame as well? Michael Schumacher is always held up as a reference point for drivers wishing to direct the progress of their teams. Would he have spotted the Nakamoto problem and had something done about it?

And what about Barrichello – surely the most experienced driver in F1 – soon to become the most experienced F1 driver ever – could have seen the team were heading in the wrong direction?

Arguably both drivers have wasted chances to score vital morale-boosting points for the team in wet weather races.

What is remarkable about Honda’s reaction to their dismal season has been the lack of high-profile firings. Not least of which Nick Fry, under whose stewardship the team took a notable backward step in competitiveness in 2005 (as BAR) after a strong 2004. Is he the right man for the job?

Could the team’s wretched season even jeapordise Honda’s position in the sport?

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