Continuing our series of Formula One factories, this week sees us visit two closely related buildings as they are owned by the same company, Honda. The factory team for which Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello drive for came from the transformation of BAR in 2005, which in turn came from Ken Tyrrell’s former squad. Tyrrell based his efforts at Ockham in Surrey, but the BAR buy out saw the team move to Brackley in Oxfordshire, just ten minutes up the road from Silverstone and not too far from their second team’s factory.
The front offices at the Brackley factory are probably some of the more pleasant buildings to house a Formula One team, surrounded by landscaped gardens the place has an air of calm about it. Or at least, it does in the official photographs and upon first sight. However, moving around the grounds and away from the front presentation area, the buildings take on a more utilitarian shape. As shown in the images on Shaun’s Bicester Blog, the back buildings resemble an old worn out college (specifically my old haunt, Brooklands) and look as though they haven’t been cared for in quite a while. However, inside the factory everything is pristinely clean and reasonably spacious. British American Tobacco’s investment in the facility in the early 2000s has paid off and Brackley is a very well equipped building to construct Formula One cars.
Super Aguri, a satellite team of Honda, are based at the Leafield factory, formerly owned by Arrows racing and not too far from Brackley. It is thought the squad got the facilities on the cheap when the team were hastily being put together for the 2006 season and have a signed lease up until the end of 2008. At this point rumours have suggested moving in with Honda to building an entirely new facility to house both squads. It is likely though that Aguri will remain at Leafield for the time being. Originally the team were even going to use a 2002 Arrows chassis as the basis for their own car, but have since developed their own car and then in 2007 they chose to use the old Honda RA106 chassis instead.
The Leafield Technical Centre, situated in Oxfordshire, isn’t quite as advanced as Brackley, but it serves its purpose well, especially given that the efforts of both teams are often combined, utilising both factories and staff. In fact, the building looks more like a large house on first impressions, with a peaked roof and hedgerows lining the outer wall. The building only houses 160 or so staff, and is by no means considered large, but it is a good addition to the Honda family and the team use what they have very effectively. Super Aguri claimed four points in 2007 (to Honda’s six), and for most of the year looked more competitive then the factory team. Thus, leading to the conclusion that it isn’t necessarily the size of the factory that counts.
And from looking at the photograph above, the factory is clearly dwarfed by the surrounding trees and telecommunication masts. Although, much like Brackley’s front offices, it does indeed look like a very nice place to work.
Photo Copyright © Honda F1 Team (top) and SA Mathieson (bottom).