Speaking for himself and not the company, head of Honda Research and Development, Yoshiharu Yamamoto, told Autocar that when it comes to Formula One, "We do look up at those races and hope that one day we can take part again." In order for that one day to occur, a few things would need to happen: the rules would need to change and Honda would need to prove itself capable of winning in the World Touring Car Championship. Neither one is assured.
The new rules Yamamoto is thought to be referring to are the F1 engine regulations coming into force in 2014 – the sport will swap 2.4-liter V8s for 1.6-liter, turbocharged V6s. Honda has developed a 1.6-liter four-cylinder for its new entrant in the WTCC, and it's speculated that a 1.6-liter turbo four will fill the engine bay of the coming Honda Civic Type R. As with a similar on-again off-again flirtation with F1 by Volkswagen, the move to an engine spec closer to that for road cars could be one of the prime tipping points Honda needs.
However, Bernie Ecclestone, Ferrari and even Grand Prix promoters are now fighting the introduction of those V6s because, among other things, the say the engines "sounded terrible." On top of that, Honda's return assumes the company can strut its stuff in touring cars, Yamamoto telling Autocar, "I feel the first thing we must do is win in the WTCC, and then perhaps we can look further afield."
Over the past 48 years Honda has done three stints in Formula 1. In spite of its many successes – McLaren-Honda, anyone? – many look at the Japanese company's last exit in 2008 as an ignominious end to a nine-year stretch that also included the whimpering close of the BAR Honda team and the best days of Jacques Villeneuve's noteworthy F1 career. That's not exactly true, though: Honda got out at the end of 2008 and helped Ross Brawn with a management buyout to form Brawn GP in early 2009, then Jensen Button used the car Honda had just finished developing to dominate the 2009 World Championship. We, for one, would be happy to see them back.