Former Formula One driver Stefan Johansson says McLaren-Honda’s first golden era required five years of efforts before the duo became the potent combination that dominated the late 1980s and early 1990s.
With the Japanese manufacturer returning to F1 this season as engine partner to the Woking-based team, the renewed alliance entered the 2015 campaign amidst much hype, high expectations, and ghosts of exploits past.
However, it quickly became evident that the rekindled association would not be able to emulate the successes of its former guise right out of the box.
“Everybody keeps talking about the “golden era” of the McLaren-Honda relationship when they basically cleaned up for a couple of years with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna,” said Johansson in his latest blog interview.
“What people tend to forget is that relationship didn’t start until Honda had already spent five years in F1, developing their engines to what they finally became. The early days were no walk in the park. I know that very well as I drove the first car they entered in 1983 with Spirit and the scenario was not that much different than it is today.
“I used to joke at the time that I stopped doing all my physical training during the week because I got more than I needed on the race weekends with the engines blowing up in every session and I had to run back to the pits to get in the spare car to finish the session. Eventually they got it right of course, and then dominated before they decided to pull out.”
Johansson’s own F1 career spanned 11 years (1980-1991) and included spells at Shadow, Spirit, Tyrell, Toleman, Ferrari, McLaren, Ligier, Onyx, AGS, Footwork.
Although he never became a grand prix winner in his 103 races (for 79 starts), the Swede did manage to secure 12 podiums at the top echelon and went on claiming victory at the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche.
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