Legendary team owner Ken Tyrrell sold the team to British American Tobacco in 1997 and with Craig Pollock fronting the team with his driver Jacques Villeneuve leading the team on the driving front with Ricardo Zonta as his team-mate. British American Racing hit the circuit for the first time in 1999.
The new team began its debut season under a cloud, defying the FIA when they launched the cars in dual tobacco livery, eventually compromising with a split
livery. Their first year was a bitter disappointment on track as the Supertec powered BAR 001 failed to score a single point.
Pollock landed a Honda engine deal for the 2000 season, a move that would prove increasingly critical to the team up until the team became 100 percent owned by the Japanese car giant for the 2006 season. In between, the team had its fair share of high points and low points.
Their first year with Honda went very well, Villeneuve putting in some very strong performances and Zonta coming good towards the end of the season. However it was too late for the Brazilian, as BAR signed Olivier Panis to line up alongside Villeneuve for 2001 and together the duo had hoped to improve even further on their fifth place finish in 2000. It was not to be and BAR fell behind their Honda powered rivals at Jordan. Growing somewhat frustrated, Villeneuve made it quite clear that he was unimpressed with the overall package and dramatic improvements were made for 2002.
However, the sudden dismissal of the Canadian's close friend and Manager Craig Pollock on the eve of the new car's launch left a question mark over the 1997 Champion's long-term future with the squad. Dave Richards took Pollock's place in an attempt to move BAR Honda towards the front of the field.
Villeneuve remained with the squad for 2003, as they became the sole Honda powered outfit on the grid. In the final year of his five-year contract with the team, the Canadian lined up with former Renault and Williams man, Jenson Button, and found himself second best.
Button out-performed Villeneuve throughout the season, which began with heated exchanges between the two. Button, however, made his point on the track and effectively became the team leader. Villeneuve's time with the team came to an undignified end as he was dropped just ahead of the season finale in Japan with Honda's protégé Takuma Sato taking over the ride.
It had taken BAR Honda some time, but 2004 marked the season where the squad moved from an also-ran team, to championship contenders as the team scored an impressive 119 points and claimed second position in the Constructors' championship. Button finished second four times while Sato took his first podium position at Indianapolis. In total, the team claimed 11 podium positions and 24 points paying finishes. For 2005, both Honda and BAR had just one thing in mind - race wins.
After the success of the previous season, BAR Honda had every right to feel that they could at last achieve its first win in 2005. Dave Richards was ousted from the squad perhaps as a result of some complicated and very public disputes with Button over his wish to leave the team for Williams. Richards won the battle and Button was forced to remain in 2005, but Richards himself found himself replaced by Nick Fry.
Back on track, Button and Sato suffered a terrible start to the season failing to score any points in the opening three rounds of the championship. At Imola, the team found itself in hot water again as the 007 chassis was underweight once fuel had been completely drained from the chassis. A great deal of publicity resulted and the FIA disqualified the team from the San Marino Grand Prix and handed down a further two race ban.
Heading to the tenth race of the season, the team had yet to score a championship point. Away from the circuit Honda had now purchased a 45 percent stake in the team and by the end of the season, the BAR team would be 100 percent owned by Honda. France did bring Button and BAR his first points of the season and the British driver would go on to score points in every remaining round. The team did not however come close to a race win and with Sato having a real season to forget, finishing sixth in the Constructors' standings.
Button got himself into further contract issues with Williams in 2005, but managed to buy his way out of the deal and remains with Honda in 2006 with Rubens Barrichello being drafted in from Ferrari to replace Sato. Again, the first win remains the target in 2006.