“SUCCESS CAN BE ACHIEVED ONLY THROUGH
Upstairs in Honda’s modest F1 motorhome are two quietly powerful appeals to tradition: a Kauri wood table made from a tree that had been buried for tens of thousands of years, and a photo of founder Soichiro Honda. As bets a man who ranks alongside Henry Ford in the motoring pantheon, Mr Honda is not shown as a corporate mandarin in a suit; he is dressed in worn overalls and cap and stood in a workshop.
“Success,” Honda once said, “can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents one per cent of your work, which results only from the ninety-nine per cent that is called failure.”
There are more Honda aphorisms where that came from – he’s a rich source of quotes for sundry leadership manuals. But that particular one says much about the company, the kinds of people who choose to work for it, and the kinds of people who percolate up through the ranks; most of the senior staff are engineers rather than bean-counters. In one famous instance a senior dignitary from Japan, ofciating at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new factory in the USA, rolled up his shirt sleeves and xed the mechanical digger when it failed to start. So when you ask Yusuke Hasegawa, head of the F1 programme, why he joined Honda after graduating in 1986, his answer is no surprise: “The image of Honda is one of freedom for an engineer. It’s a young and challenging company. I thought I could do something interesting. I wasn’t insisting on road-car development, or engines, but I wanted to be a good engineer, to invent something new – to change the world!
“It’s difcult for me to compare it with other companies because I’ve never worked anywhere else. Honda R&D are separate from Honda Motors, although they’re part of the same organisation. They’re very much focused on technology rather than product. They’re not driven by cost or marketing.”
Hasegawa’s background was in R&D before he became involved in Honda’s motorsport efforts, which explains why he’s so tight-lipped about technical developments in the F1 programme. His predecessor, Yasuhisa Arai, took a pounding in the media – partly due to misquoted remarks about performance gains – something Hasegawa has avoided since taking charge last March.
It helps that the Honda power unit is better this year, since a crack in the relationship between McLaren and Honda is the perception that Honda want to win ‘some time’ and aren’t afraid to learn from failure, whereas McLaren want to win now. The appointment of Hasegawa, who spent six years on Honda’s previous F1 project (in roles that ran from engine management system development to hands-on engineering with Jacques Villeneuve, Takuma Sato and Jenson