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The Circuit

How Honda's F1 dreams went up in smoke

  • Story Highlights
  • Honda have pulled out of F1 before, both as a constructor and engine supplier
  • Their return as a constructor in 2005 followed five years as a partner with BAR
  • The Japanese team won just once, in Hungary in 2006, in nine seasons in F1
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Neale Graham
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Honda and Formula One have a checkered history.

Honda, with Jenson Button at the wheel, were out testing in preparation for 2009's new regulations only last month.

The Japanese company's on-off involvement in the sport stretches back to 1963, but it was not until the 1980s that they enjoyed sustained success, as an engine supplier to Williams and then McLaren.

Their most recent return lasted nine, turbulent years, firstly as an engine supplier to British American Racing, then as a fully-fledged constructor.

But since their much-heralded return to F1 with BAR in 2000, very little has gone Honda's way.

In that time, they won just one grand prix, a crazy, wet-dry race in Hungary with Jenson Button at the wheel.

There was a time, though, when it looked like the hype would be married with results. Let us know your thoughts on Honda's demise and what it means for F1.

The early years had been a learning process but by 2004 the team gained its first pole position, podium visits were commonplace and its car was second-fastest to the all-conquering Ferrari.

A second-placed finish in the constructors' championship would be the best BAR-Honda would achieve -- and a false dawn.

The following year was ignominious for the team. They were banned for two races for running an underweight car -- it proved to be nowhere near as fast as the 2004 machine.

In 2006, the BAR name had gone as F1 kicked its tobacco sponsorship habit for good. After a sticky start to the season, Honda seemed to be on the up. The win for Button in Hungary, his first in F1 after 113 races, sparked a run of strong results up to the end of the season.

But again Honda flattered to deceive and the 2007 car was awful, the team scoring six points compared to 86 in 2006. At least it caught the eye while it was being lapped, emblazoned as it was with an environmental message rather than any advertising.

Ross Brawn was recruited as team principal over the winter to lead the team out of its slump. But the man who masterminded Michael Schumacher's domination while at Ferrari could do nothing about the 2008 car, which had already been designed by the time he arrived.

And although 2008 saw an improvement on 2007, with 14 points gathered, it was another pitiful showing for a team with one of the sport's largest budgets. Their Earth Dreams slogan had become a nightmare.

Still, 2009 promised much. New regulations and new technologies have given the grid's backmarkers fresh hope, none more so than Honda who worked on next year's car for much of 2008.

Now, though, all that work could be lost unless a buyer for the team is found. Even if the team survives, Honda will not be supplying it with engines.

And spare a thought for Button, who was Britain's great hope long before Lewis Hamilton burst onto the scene. He has stuck by Honda through its lean years in the hope his faith would be repaid.

Now Button, who turns 29 in January, might not even be on the grid when the red lights go out on the 2009 season in Melbourne on March 29. He is in danger of becoming F1's forgotten man.

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