Honda F1 boss admits job is on the line as McLaren under sponsor pressure over poor results
Honda F1 engine boss Yasuhisa Arai has spoken out candidly today about the awkward position he and Honda find themselves in; culturally he admits t...
Honda F1 engine boss Yasuhisa Arai has spoken out candidly today about the awkward position he and Honda find themselves in; culturally he admits that Honda's way is different from McLaren and F1. He also addresses issues with the McLaren team, which is under pressure from sponsors due to poor results and his own future in the role.
The season has been disastrous so far for the McLaren Honda partnership with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button in the points just twice each, while unreliability has dogged the new power unit. McLaren leads the way on retirements with 9, tied with Lotus.
Although Honda was thrown a lifeline by the F1 Strategy Group and the FIA World Council with a mid season rule change allowing new manufacturers a fifth power unit without penalty, Arai admits that the challenge of making a competitive F1 power unit is much harder than they anticipated,
"The sport has changed immensely since the McLaren-Honda ‘glory days’," Arai says. "The current technology is much more sophisticated and it is tough to make a good racing car. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but perhaps we didn’t imagine that it would be this hard.
"I certainly didn’t imagine technology wise what we would be facing, but I have complete confidence in the direction we have taken with our power unit. We needed to create something radical in order to beat the top teams, and that is our ultimate goal – to beat the best.
"The current regulations of the whole power unit package are very complicated so one small component triggers a domino effect of other items leading to the issues that we have been seeing.
"We believe that our compact power unit layout will prove to be very competitive; however we knew from the start that it would cause problems with heat rejection. We now know which area is affected, and in the second half of the season we will apply new parts to resolve the issue and apply more horsepower to improve our competitiveness."
He also accepts that the poor results have had an impact on relations with McLaren and within Honda and that there are question marks about his position,
"Every step of this new project has been discussed with McLaren management. Every day we are in discussion. I know that they are under pressure from sponsors, but we trust and help each other to come up with good, innovative ideas. Working with the two different cultures within the team has made us stronger and more creative. It’s a very good relationship and a very good team. I trust everyone in the team, and we wouldn’t be McLaren-Honda without each and every one of them. We wouldn’t be fighting as hard as we are without their support and hard work.
"I think Honda’s development method is very different to Formula One and McLaren. Of course I have big pressure on my shoulders – especially from the fans, the Honda board and my colleagues, but this is completely normal.
"I think that I have what it takes to drive this project, but I can’t decide my own future, neither can the media or McLaren board members. I hope to continue driving this project and I believe that our board members trust me emphatically."
Arai says that although the first half of the season has been very tough, they have now resolved most of the technical problems and can see light at the end of the tunnel. They were able to use full ERS boost for some of the Hungarian GP weekend, although not in the race and they are focussed on combustion in their development drive for the rest of the season.
"I am confident that our reliability problems are now behind us which means we can turn our attention to increasing power," he says. "After the summer shutdown our plan is to apply a new spec engine using some of our remaining seven tokens.
"The most important area for us to concentrate on is the combustion. Current regulations require high efficiency of the combustion so we want to change the characteristic with the chamber design and intake and exhaust system layout. Another issue we will be addressing is reducing mechanical friction by changing the gear train system along with the combustion.
"Not all of our upgrades will be in place for the Belgium Grand Prix; some parts will be applied for Spa and the rest during the weeks that follow. Our plan is to keep improving race-by-race for the remainder of the season.
"We can start concentrating on moving forward. We are definitely feeling more positive about the second half of the season. "
McLaren Honda are currently 9th in the Constructors' Championship standings with 17 points, behind Sauber 22; Toro Rosso 31; Lotus 35; Force India 39. Where do you think they will end up?
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