Having recently confirmed that Honda had made changes that would ensure the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team were ready for action in Melbourne, Honda F1 Chief Yusuke Hasegawa has now revealed he still has concerns about reliability.
The Woking based squad were afflicted with numerous failures during the recent pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, so much so that they were unable to complete a full race simulation across the eight days of running.
Following their departure from Spain, Honda have made a number of amendments to the engine that they felt would rectify most of the issues and improve driveability of the MCL32. However, speaking in Melbourne on Thursday, the Japanese engineer confided that he is still not brimming with confidence over how long the car will last out on track come race day.
“On the last two days of the second week [of testing], trouble was caused by the vibration of the car.
“It was not only a problem with the engine itself, although the thing vibrating the most was the engine.
“The trouble caused cracks in a carbon pipe on the side of the car – with the harness getting detached. However, I don’t know if these problems will not occur again if the engine vibrations stop. I am worried.
“It is also certain that the cars rode over the kerbs [in Barcelona] and this caused some vibration. If we have such a weakness in the side of the car, then it is worrying.”
The updates look to work fine in theory and on the test bench back at the factory, however they are yet to try them out in the real world, and will only know if they have truly made a difference when the drivers take to the track in free practice.
“I think driveability is improving.
“We have done some bench testing at Sakura, but we haven’t run the engine on the track yet so I do not understand the situation as of today.”
But although Honda are not 100% convinced they have fully resolved the vibration problems, Hasegawa did confirm that the issues experienced during the first week of testing, which included an oil tank design issue, have now been fixed.
“In the Spanish test, trouble occurred in the oil tank on the first day of the first week and the engine itself on the second day. I do not disclose what kind of trouble, but I have taken countermeasures.
“It was a matter of design [the oil tank]. There was a baffle plate inside, but it seems that it was not able to properly suck up oil, because its shape was bad.
“I have changed that. It was a shame that it was said that it was the only trouble, because it was a very rudimentary problem.”
“On the first day of the second week, the high voltage systems were insulated against these problems, and I think that the big problem is solved.
“On the second day of the second week’s test, there was a water leak in the radiator. That is why I turned off the engine.”
Following the spate of issues in Barcelona, driver Fernando Alonso blasted the Japanese manufacturer for being amateurs and producing an engine that was once again lacking in power, but Hasegawa is adamant they are up on juice from last year, although admitted they are not quite where they are hoped to be just yet..
“[Regarding] Alonso’s power shortage and lack of speed compared with other cars, I do not know honestly, but I think that is our problem.
“We have not yet reached the target value we have established independently, but I cannot tell you the figures.
“I think that power is better than we had in Abu Dhabi last year, but the drag has increased. And as the tyres are wider, the driver may feel that the speed has dropped.”