Only two sessions into the season have passed and Honda are already working on a new power unit for the McLaren team after the disastrous pre-season testing for the alliance.
McLaren managed to get some solid running in during Friday, Alonso finishing the day 12th fastest and managing get in 84 laps worth of running with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. But it is quite clear there is still a horsepower deficit, so now the Japanese manufacturer is looking to bring an upgrade to the package within a couple of months. It will most likely be introduced at Monaco when teams are moving onto their second of four engines for the year. The layout concept for this year will stay the same with the split turbine and compressor, but new hardware will be introduced in the hope more power can be unlocked as the current spec is 9 km/h slower than Mercedes in the speed traps, as explained by Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa:
“The power difference is big. To raise the power it is necessary to raise the combustion efficiency, but to do that you have to change the hardware of the current power unit. So I am developing an improved power unit, but it will take some time to complete. I would like to have it finished and in the car within two months.”
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 24, 2017
There were no major reliability issues for McLaren on Friday but there are still vibration issues which have not been completely cured from winter testing. Alonso and Vandoorne have apparently been told to change gears in a different rev range, which is causing oscillations and costing lap time. Executive Director Zak Brown said that whilst the reliability was much better, there was still concerns on the performance side.
“Today was alright. The reliability was good, but the speed was not where we want to be but it was better. I think some others had some issues, so I don’t know if today is representative of where we will be tomorrow in qualifying. I hope so because 12th would be a little bit better than anticipated. But it was only free practice and day one. You don’t know who turned it up and who was on what fuel load. But today was a good day.”
Whilst things have certainly improved for McLaren, it is nowhere near what people were expecting from them this year. There is still a long road ahead for the team.