With Renault’s engine upgrade seemingly progressing well, at least in the hands of customer team Red Bull Racing, Honda are closely monitoring any performance jumps with great interest.
The Japanese manufacturer see Renault as their current closest competitors, and with both looking to close the gap to lead engine suppliers Mercedes and Ferrari, Honda do not want to be left behind or be caught out, by any stark improvements from Renault.
Speaking to F1i.com, Honda F1 Chief Yusuke Hasegawa, confirmed their interest in seeing how the Renault upgrade develops, and how it could influence their timetable in terms of releasing a new specification PU.
“Of course if they upgrade [the power unit] then it could give us a huge shock because currently it’s fair to say McLaren-Honda is a little bit quicker than the Renault, but if their upgrade makes them overtake us then we need to respond with something.”
McLaren have so far looked strong during some of the Friday practice sessions, but then do not seem able to bring that performance to the table on Saturday and make it count when it matters in qualifying. Hasegawa believes this is down to other teams being able to run lower power on Friday without compromising their programme, which in turn makes it look like they are making bigger advances on a Saturday.
“It’s because they have more power they have room to downgrade the power for practice.
“We are also using some practice modes on Friday but because our maximum power is not strong enough the drivers would complain that there is too low power!
“Of course we are also using low power on a Friday.”
McLaren had hoped that they would see improvements during the recent Monaco Grand Prix, but despite Fernando Alonso achieving an impressive fifth place in Monte-Carlo and team-mate Jenson Button also finishing in the points in ninth, the performance levels are still not where they expected them to be, as the Woking based squad struggle to work with the tyre pressures put in place by Pirelli.
Any step up in engine power therefore would be a welcome addition to McLaren and its drivers, and as Renault look to have upped their performance levels, with Daniel Ricciardo able to secure a stunning pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend, could we be about to see Honda release their next engine upgrade?