In an interview with the media this weekend, Honda’s Motorsport Director Yasuhisa Arai says that Honda remains optimistic that it can get to the bottom of persistent reliability issues to ensure McLaren is on terms with leading rivals by the end of the 2015 F1 season.
The Japanese firm is coming under increasing pressure to bring its new power unit up to a more competitive level following a series of technically-motivated retirements in recent races, including three in a row for Fernando Alonso.
Despite this, Honda says it is working closely with McLaren beyond the power unit in an effort to better integrate it into the MP4-30, a method he hopes will see the car take a turn for the better before the year is out. Arai stated the following about the current situation as follows:-
‘We are working very hard not only on the engine but on the aerodynamics and chassis side. The technology is working step-by-step and we are making very good progress from Australia to Canada. Maybe in a few more races in the second half of the season we can achieve top rivalry and good competition with top level teams.’
It is clear that Honda are making small steps to get to grips with competing in F1 at the moment (scoring their first points in Monaco anyone?!) and still have a lot to learn. But it is clear that they are confident that they are gain more pace and performance from the package and believe that they should try and challenge their rivals as a result.
Though the disappointing results have brought McLaren-Honda under close scrutiny, in his interview with the media, McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier insists there is more pressure than normal from the team owners. Boullier stated the following:-
‘There is pressure. That is normal. We are all competitors and we all want to win. We want to become competitive, so there is pressure on Honda, pressure on McLaren and the shareholders just like any company in the world.
‘They are here to give us support and we have to report to them which is usual but we don’t have any extra pressure. We are professional and transparent enough with what we are doing.’
As Boullier points out, there is always pressure to deliver and perform in Formula One and that is normal when all you want to do is racing as best as you can and also win in the process. But as with anything, the pressure is on both parties to perform and given their history together, you can understand why.
With many pundits and fans currently suggesting still that McLaren and Honda need to start winning and fighting for titles straight away, I argue that will not be the case until the 2016 season at least. You may be sitting there thinking ‘Oh Sarah has no faith in her team at all and their abilities and she’s losing patience with them.’ I understand why you might think that but that is not the case.
I love McLaren more than I ever have, I believe 100% in the team and what they can achieve and nothing would give me greater joy than to see my team fighting at the front of the grid as soon as they can. But my opinion is just realistic; McLaren and Honda are not in the position to be fighting straight away for wins and titles and they need to create a solid foundation and re-establish their working relationship with each other once again before this can take place.
It is clear for all to see that 2015 will be a foundation and learning year for McLaren and Honda. As we know, they haven’t had the best pre-season testing period with McLaren and Honda experiencing problems with the car and the power unit left, right and centre but that is to be expected. Let us not forget that Honda is a year behind their rivals with regards to their engine and its development and it will take them some time to catch the gap while also learning how their power unit performs on the track.
But with many fans arguing that Honda should have used McLaren’s expertise and knowledge from building hybrid engines for their P1 car; you can understand why many feel frustrated with both parties. But you must remember that Honda have built everything themselves for the MP4-30 this season and Honda have stated that they have done this to ‘show what can be done as a technical exercise.’
I can see why Honda have done this and undergone this route with their systems and power unit, but they should have used McLaren’s expertise too in my opinion and could have gained more knowledge that could help them in their first year back in partnership with each other. But they will learn from this as will McLaren and this will only help them move forward together in unison as time goes on.
But overall, what will 2015 bring for McLaren-Honda? I believe that 2015 will be a foundation year for both parties who need to re-establish their working partnership, understand just what each of them bring to the party and build a solid foundation for them to develop and improve upon as the season goes on.
With Button and Alonso driving for them this year, they have two experienced, talented and very capable drivers that can deliver on the track if they can get everything right while also providing them with much needed technical feedback that will help them shape and improve the MP4-30 over the course of the season ahead. I expect both drivers to push each other on the track and I truly hope that we see a fair, consistent and competitive battle between them (even if I want Button to outperform Alonso more!).
It is to be expected that McLaren-Honda will encounter some teething problems along the way and they have to go through it in order to understand just where their problems lie and also to find a viable solution (s) in order to stop these problems occurring that will allow them to move forward performance wise with the car and also on the track too.
For me, it is not going to be easy for McLaren-Honda or their fans watching the team going through problems with the car and the power unit; but they have to go through it in order to understand and learn from the mistakes in order to get to a more competitive and consistent level of performance that is needed to win races and championships at the end of the day.
And for me, I don’t that is possible for the team this season and I believe that McLaren and Honda need to get experience, knowledge and mileage under their belt this season that will help them move forward from 2016 onwards to get back to winning ways again. I think all McLaren and Honda can hope for this season is a season where they develop and improve as time goes on, learn from the problems that crop up along the way and get themselves into a better position going into the 2016 season.
But it is clear that a new era is happening at McLaren and there’s no question that McLaren and Honda will succeed in the near future and they have everything at their disposal to do so; all it will take is a little bit more time and patience to get there, but they will get there sooner rather than later.