"BAR" redirects here. For the driver who uses the three-letter abbreviation "BAR", see Rubens Barrichello.
They were named after their part owner and sponsor, British American Tobacco. While tobacco companies sponsored F1 for the majority of the times since sponsorships became commonplace, BAR is the only constrcutor to be named after a tobacco sponsor.
They became Honda Racing in 2006 after new tobacco regulations meant the team had to be sold on before 2007. Honda became Brawn GP for 2009 due the global economic crisis. This became Mercedes GP in 2010.
British American Tobacco (BAT) had been involved in Formula One for many years, with several of its brands being displayed on F1 cars run by various teams.
In 1997, the corporation was convinced by Craig Pollock to provide most of the equity to purchase the Tyrrell Formula One team for £30 million. Pollock, Adrian Reynard and Rick Gorne were the minority partners. The deal was announced on 2 December 1997. The team was still officially known as Tyrrell in 1998 before it became BAR the following year.
In a disastrous maiden season, BAR failed to score a single point in the Constructors' Championship. The car was relatively quick and often qualified in the midfield, Villeneuve even ran in 3rd place in the Spanish Grand Prix for a short while. However, the car suffered from chronic unreliability, Villeneuve started the year with 11 straight retirements and failed to finish a race until the Belgian Grand Prix that August. Zonta missed three races due to an injury and managed only a best finish of 8th. Mika Salo, who filled in for Zonta while he was hurt, provided the team with its best finish of 7th.
During the 1999 season, BAR announced that Honda was to supply them with engines beginning in 2000. The Honda deal not only meant they would supply engines, but that Honda staff would work with the team at their Brackley base. Honda had planned to enter Formula One as a factory team, but relented. It was the first time Honda had been directly involved in Formula One since 1992. BAR did not have exclusive use of Honda engines, though, as Jordan Grand Prix were using Mugen Honda units. The following year, Jordan were given factory Honda engines, but the engine manufacturers could not supply two teams forever. This prompted a battle between BAR and Jordan for the use of Honda engines in the long term.
The car was once again designed in co-operation with Adrian Reynard despite talk of tension between him and team principal Craig Pollock. At the launch of the 002 car, Pollock himself described the 2000 season as a chance to "wipe the slate clean" following their awful first season and admitted that the team had made many mistakes in their first season.
In 2000, the new Honda-powered BAR did show a significant improvement. It proved to be considerably more reliable than the team's previous effort, but the team still only had a best finish of 4th and the victory they had promised in 1999 still eluded them. At the end of the season, the team finished 5th in the Constructors' Championship. The progression and improvement of the team was enough to convince Villeneuve to remain at the team.
Villeneuve reached the podium twice in 2001 for BAR, but neither his nor new teammate Olivier Panis' results were consistent enough.
Under pressure from British American Tobacco, Pollock resigned on the eve of the launch of the 2002 car and was replaced as team principal by David Richards. Richards' Prodrive company was also awarded a five-year management contract to run BAR. BAT and Prodrive had a prior relationship with BAT sponsoring Subaru's World Rally Championship team, operated by Prodrive.
2002 was a transient season for BAR. A significant proportion of the workforce was culled while technical director Malcolm Oastler and designer Andy Green left. Villeneuve still struggled to score points and Panis also failing to reach expectations. BAR signed a deal to become Honda's only team in 2003, despite finishing behind Honda's other team, Jordan, in both 2001 and 2002.
BAR brought in Jenson Button to replace Panis for the 2003 Formula One season. Villeneuve's contract negotiation arguments with David Richards eventually ended with him being replaced before the end of the season by Japanese driver Takuma Sato. Honda has traditionally liked its teams to field Japanese drivers for publicity reasons in its home country. Jenson Button led a race for the first time at the 2003 United States Grand Prix. The team struggled due to its use of Bridgestone tyres. In the off-season, they changed to rival company Michelin.
Early in 2004, the team saw a further upswing in its fortunes, Button scoring many podium finishes. He also took their first pole position, at San Marino. BAR finished the season in 2nd place in the Constructors' Championship, beating every team except for Ferrari. Despite this, BAR's first win still eluded them.
During the course of the 2004 season, a dispute with Williams F1 threatened to overshadow BAR's on-track performance. Both teams believed they had a valid contract for Button in 2005. The issue finally went to the Contract Recognition Board, which found in favour of BAR. Button was to drive for BAR in 2005 but signed a contract to join Williams for 2006.
With increasing restrictions being placed upon tobacco companies' opportunities to advertise in Formula One, rumours suggested that BAT would try to sell the team. In mid-November 2004, BAR announced that Honda had purchased 45% and, as part of the deal, David Richards left to be replaced by Nick Fry as team principal. Prodrive's management contract was also terminated early.
The start of the 2005 season didn't go according to plan for BAR, as they struggled in the "flyaway" races at the start of the season. Just as they became competitive, in San Marino, BAR Honda was disqualified for running with illegal cars. The allegation was that the cars were able to race with their total weight below 605 kg (1323 lb), the minimum weight required for a Formula 1 car. BAR disputed this, saying that the engine required a minimum of 6 kg (13 lb) of fuel to work, thus keeping them above the minimum weight. Their interpretation of the rules was that this limit applies only during the race, not during the post-race scrutineering.
The FIA, and later the court, disagreed. In addition to the disqualification, the team was banned for two races, a period which included the lucrative Monaco Grand Prix. The team initially indicated that they planned to fight the decision before a regular civil court but later decided to accept the verdict. Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, saw the sanction as very lenient; he had wanted the team to be banned for the rest of the season. However, they were unable to prove deliberate intent to cheat, as they had with BAR's predecessor, Tyrrell, in the 1984 season.
When BAR returned at the European Grand Prix, the team struggled to find its feet. In stark contrast to the previous season, BAR failed to score a single point until the midway point, at the 2005 French Grand Prix, not helped by the team's use of Michelin tyres causing them to not start the 2005 United States Grand Prix. Takuma Sato had a particularly poor season, scoring just one point, and subsequently, his contract was not renewed by BAR at the end of the season. Sato was replaced in the new Honda team by former Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello. Button scored in each of the last 10 races of the season, culminating in 2 podium positions. Confirmation of this improvement was shown in a skillful pass made by Jenson Button, overtaking Jacques Villeneuve at the fast Pouhon corner at Spa-Francorchamps, in the rain, and around the outside.
At the end of 2005, Honda obtained 100% ownership of BAR from British American Tobacco, completing their ambition to become a full F1 manufacturer team. In addition, Jenson Button's Williams contract was bought out for US$30 million, and Button signed a multi-year contract with Honda.
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