Honda’s Formula One chief, Yasuke Hasegawa, has claimed that Honda’s redesign of their power unit is a huge risk. Is the Japanese manufacturer managing expectations? Or is this an early ploy to appear out of the contest?
Honda made significant gains last season against other engine manufacturers Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari but still have performance gains to find if they are to bridge the gap. Hasegawa said,
“The concept is completely different. It’s very high risk, we don’t know a lot of things about that new concept. We know it will give us a performance advantage, but the biggest risk is whether we can realise that potential this year.”
– Yasuke Hasegawa
Between 2015 and 2016, Honda managed to find 70bhp in the F1 engine and a more crucial development in the ERS component, giving Button and Alonso a much needed 163 electrical horsepower boost for 33-seconds – This was essentially unusable in the 2015 campaign and the progress made was evident in last season’s much better showing.
These changes that ultimately led to gains would have been perceived as risky at the time, but were needed to find performance. Hasegawa’s use of the phrase “high risk” is expected with a conceptual shift, it would be safer to stick with the same system, but that wouldn’t help the team climb the order.
The point is, Honda need to take big risks, it’s the only way to try and find an edge over their rivals. Hasegawa added that the Internal Combustion Engine will remain a priority throughout the year.
“We need to concentrate on the ICE for this year. If we improve the engine itself, which means boosting exhaust gas energy, we need to boost the turbine otherwise we cannot perform at the same level in terms of deployment.
We still have to do some tests and there will be some trial and error. I hope we have understood the direction and the [power unit] elements to focus on, but it’s not easy to combine the elements to realise the improvements on the ICE completely.”
– Yasuke Hasegawa
The scrapping of the token system from last season gives the engine manufacturers an open window in terms of development. There are also the in-season tests in Bahrain and Hungary that should provide vital laps in the car, testing amendments and upgrades. This shift in regulation is definitely a positive one for Honda, but these new freedoms have also been given to the trio of manufacturers that are still ahead. For the sake of retaining Alonso at his peak and giving a promising Vandoorne a shot at realising his potential, Honda simply have to deliver.