Electrical issues, set in motion by vibrations coming from the Honda engine, are believed to have been the root cause of the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team‘s issues during the final two days of pre-season testing.
The MCL32 broke down on just about every day of the two weeks of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona this month, with Honda trying everything to find the reason behind the failures and a solution to them whilst out in Spain, but without success.
The Woking based squad had possibly one of their worst winter test experiences during their time in F1 so far, seeing their schedule they were heavily disrupted by stoppage after stoppage, leaving them unable to really complete any substantial running, or collect much valuable data ahead of the new season.
The poor performance of the PU prompted driver Fernando Alonso to really lay into the Japanese manufacturer for producing an engine that he described as severely lacking power as well as accusing them of making amateur mistakes.
McLaren completed the least amount of laps of any team across the two week session, and their fastest time, a 1:21.348 posted by driver Stoffel Vandoorne on the penultimate day, was three seconds slower than the quickest overall lap set by Scuderia Ferrari.
The squad had hoped to be able to make some headway on Friday, but their hope was short-lived when Alonso came to a halt on track twice within just a few laps. Honda later confirmed the stoppages were due to ‘a series of intermittent electrical issues’. The MCL32 also broke down twice on Thursday with Vandoorne behind the wheel, for much the same reasoning.
With four electrical failures in just two days to add to their already long list of problems, Honda F1 Chief Yusuke Hasegawa advised media that the Japanese manufacturer was still investigating the underlying cause of the PU shutdown.
“It was unfortunate that we encountered the electrical issue again despite having replaced the parts under investigation overnight.
“This meant a significant amount of today’s test was spent trying to identify what was causing the car to lose power.
“We still have some more time before Melbourne and we’ll continue to work tirelessly with McLaren right up until we board the plane for Australia.”
Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft reported however, that it was “vibrations, and so many vibrations that it is affecting the electrics and things are popping out left, right and centre”, whilst Mark Hughes reported on motorsport magazine that “excessive valve temperatures are rumoured to be at the root of the new Honda’s problems.”
Hughes goes on to state, such a problem would mean having to run the engine very far from its potential performance optimum to keep the valve temperatures under control. which in turn would mean less energy to allow the MGU-h to recover, and the slower end of straight speeds would cause less energy for the MGU-k to recover.
It is this problem compounding problem, that is making things tricky for Honda to determine just how serious the overall issue is, and whether it can be resolved quickly, or whether a complete engine redesign will be necessary.
McLaren had to sacrifice much of their testing programme to work with Honda in finding the origin of the issues on Friday, and so are still some way behind where they would ideally like to be, ahead of the first race in Australia on March 26.
“Overnight, the team changed a number of electrical components on both the PU and chassis, but the problem persisted.
“With every run in the morning session, the team changed further parts in an effort to eliminate as many variables as possible and identify the source.”
With two weeks remaining before round one of the 2017 F1 season gets underway, McLaren and Honda will no doubt be working night and day to find improvements and solutions, that will see them step up their performance come race day.