The head of Honda’s Formula 1 project Yusuke Hasegawa has expressed the emotional attachment to this year’s Japanese Grand Prix for Honda, citing it as a “special race”.
Honda are to part ways with McLaren at the end of the 2017 season after three seasons, before moving to supply Scuderia Toro Rosso until 2020 at the very least, in a deal that was announced at the Singapore Grand Prix last month.
Honda and its Chief Motorsports Director Masashi Yamamoto affirmed their full commitment to McLaren until the end of the season, with Hasegawa echoing the mindset buoyed by recent results as McLaren look to further close the gap to Haas F1 Team in order secure a top eight finish in the Constructors’ Championship.
“After having another positive weekend in Malaysia, we have built up good momentum heading to our home Grand Prix in Japan.” Hasegawa said.
“We always enjoy going back to our home circuit and being waited for by warm and cheerful Japanese fans. The atmosphere encourages us a lot and we hope we can give them a great race.”
Hasegawa then went on to explain the characteristics and challenges of the Suzuka circuit, a venue that saw McLaren win with Honda power in 1988 and 1991.
“Many drivers mention Suzuka as one of their favourite circuits, and I think this is because it has both technical and power-hungry features.”
“For engineers, it’s a very exciting track as we are able to show our ability in terms of finding the perfect set-up, although we also find it very challenging.”
“The balance of the car will be very important, so we need to make sure we set up the drivability in accordance with McLaren’s chassis requirements.”
Despite Fernando Alonso’s public condemnation of the Honda power unit in the 2015 race, infamously labelling it a “GP2 engine” – in front of company executives, Hasegawa noted the importance and meaning of the event to Honda and is keen to see the partnership score points at Suzuka for the first time since Gerhard Berger earned second place in 1992.
“It will be our last Japanese Grand Prix as McLaren Honda, therefore it is a special race for the team.”
“I myself have strong feelings for this race and I‘m hoping to make it as memorable as possible for both the team and fans.”