The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team need to improve everywhere if they are to pose any sort of challenge to the top order in 2017, according to Honda’s Head of F1 Project Yusuke Hasegawa.
The Woking based squad enjoyed a much improved season in 2016, finishing sixth in the constructor’s championship and as high up as fifth place in some races, in stark contrast to the year before, where they could only manage tenth.
However, despite the clear improvement to their power unit, which had been severely down on power compared to their rivals on their return to F1 in 2015, at some race tracks they did not perform as well as predicted, and Hasegawa believes this is down to them not focusing on more than just delivering power, as he explained to Racer.com recently.
“We need to improve as McLaren-Honda. We have a lot of areas we need to improve as a team, not only the power unit but also downforce, chassis, mechanical grip, everywhere. But it’s very difficult to measure which area is the biggest deficit.”
Inconsistent results were a definite issue for McLaren Honda in 2016, who were able to secure some fantastic outcomes at tracks not felt likely to play to the strengths of the MP4-31, and performed woefully at those where they felt they could be competitive.
Their strong performance across the whole of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend was a particular surprise for the Woking based squad, as Hasegawa explains.
“We thought we would struggle because that is a very high-power circuit. “It’s half and half, and in that technical area our drivers delivered very good performance.
“So just as we didn’t know how much effect Eau Rouge would have and how much effect we could make in that technical area, but it was a good surprise. Jenson [Button] went to Q3 as well, so I was very pleased.”
In contrast, their home race in Japan was a bitter disappointment, with both drivers finishing outside the top fifteen and a lap down.
Having secured one of their best results of the year in Malaysia the round before, McLaren Honda had thought performance would be very much the same at the Suzuka International Racing Course, but they were wrong.
Hasegawa believes working to understand the individual characteristics of each circuit, will help them to improve on this in 2017.
“Japan was especially [disappointing because] the race before Suzuka – in Malaysia – was very good. We were very competitive, both cars got points and I didn’t think Suzuka was a big difference with Malaysia, but the circuit characteristic difference had a huge effect with our car.
“I think we understood. Suzuka is a circuit with a big emphasis on cornering and every corner is connected so once we lost the speed it was really difficult to recover. Malaysia also has some technical corners but it is completely divided.
“Also, from the data, from sector one in Malaysia at the first corners we a big deficit but we could recover that in some other corners. In Suzuka, once we lost some speed we couldn’t come back from it.”
The Honda power unit has been redesigned ahead of the 2017 season, featuring an all new layout and structure, as it strives to make its partnership with McLaren a winning one next season.