The progress the ‘Spec three’ engine Honda tested during free practice around the Baku City Circuit was encouraging to see, according to Yusuke Hasegawa.
Fernando Alonso used the new engine on board his McLaren during both Friday practice sessions in Azerbaijan, but due to a gearbox issue they decided against racing with it, but the track time showed progress had been made, although Honda know there is still a lot of work to do in order to be truly competitive.
Hasegawa, the head of Honda’s F1 Project and Executive Chief Engineer, says McLaren are pleased that some progress has been made, but their ultimate target is still to be realised.
“Of course it is encouraging but still that gain is not big enough to catch up with the top runners,” said Hasegawa to RACER. “Obviously it is good progress to close the gap to the other teams. So of course it is a very good thing.
“As I said, [McLaren] are not very excited because it is not a huge upgrade to catch up with the frontrunners, but of course they are pleased.
“It is very important that we can show them that we have some progress, although we didn’t achieve the complete target yet.”
Hasegawa believes that with the ‘Spec three’ engine, Alonso would have been able to hold off the challenge from Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the younger Spaniard found a way passed the two-time World Champion.
However, Hasegawa hopes that both Alonso and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne will be able to use the new update during the Austrian Grand Prix, with this being treated as a priority as the team and engine supplier aim to get off the bottom of the championship standings.
“If we had the spec three engine I think we could have protected from Sainz [for P8],” said Hasegawa. “[In Baku] we didn’t see any issues but we will check the engine back in Sakura again. It should be all right, so we are supposed to introduce spec three engines for both drivers.
“I hope [we will have spares] but still… Even if we don’t have a spare engine there is no option, we need to bring the two spec three engines.”