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McLaren F1 engineer: Honda partnership is strained but strong

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The McLaren F1 team’s relationship with Honda is strained but strong, according to McLaren engineering director Matt Morris.

McLaren has not enjoyed much success during the 2017 season, as the power unit problems of 2016 have carried over to the new year. In fact, Stoffel Vandoorne has already been handed a 15-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix after needing to use a fifth engine, with regulations dictating that a driver can only use four for the entire season.

Fernando Alonso’s decision to compete in the Indianapolis 500 took some attention away from Honda for a few days but now the pressure is completely back on the Japanese engine supplier. With that said, Morris maintains that the two automotive giants are still determined to make the relationship a success.

“Clearly, it is a strained relationship, but actually it’s a very strong relationship, and I think things like this tend to bring you closer together,” Morris said. “One of our biggest disappointments was that we weren’t expecting to have all of the reliability issues that we’ve had and I think that took some swallowing.

“We got over that disappointment and we’ve all sat down like big boys and discussed how we get ourselves out of the situation. Obviously, we’re doing everything we can to support Honda ,and Honda have set themselves some pretty bold targets for this year, which, if they deliver on, it’ll be a very different story because we’ve got a decent chassis under us. So if those two come together, then we might be talking about a different subject.”

Honda’s executive chief engineer, Yusuke Hasegawa, also had an air of confidence for the future when speaking during Friday’s press conference.

“I don’t think we have made a complete mistake,” Hasegawa said. “From last year’s performance, we knew that we would have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion. So we tried to modify in all areas. Some areas we succeeded — we managed to reduce the weight but definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion engine.

“It is just an excuse, but we still need time. We don’t think we’ve made a huge mistake, the direction was right. Obviously we’re not satisfied. We’re very disappointed with the current situation, but because the base concept is correct, we believe that we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

Despite the lack of reliability and pace, there have been rumors that Sauber wants to switch from Ferrari power to the Honda unit, a move that could help to speed up development for Honda. While admitting interest in working with another team or two, Hasegawa would not be baited into saying who these teams may be, refusing to comment on the Sauber speculation.

“From the start of this activity, we have been committed to support the Formula 1 (community.) So from that point of view, it is our duty that we have to support multiple teams. Also we are thinking that it will give us some benefits because we will have more data with more cars running, so we don’t deny to have a second or third team.

“We are talking with various teams, but, unfortunately at this moment, we have nothing to say here.”



By Sam Hall

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