F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

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 bets 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, ofciat­ing 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 difcult 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

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