McLaren faces engine dilemma as Honda gets Ilmor boost

McLaren is facing a dilemma on its engine plans for 2018, Motorsport.com has learned, with sources suggesting Honda has been helped to good gains by engine specialist Ilmor.

McLaren faces engine dilemma as Honda gets Ilmor boost
Yusuke Hasegawa, Senior Managing Officer, Honda
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL32
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
 Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
 Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
 Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32
Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group, talks to Yusuke Hasegawa, Senior Managing Officer, Honda
Mario Illien
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL32

After months of speculation about its future power unit partner, McLaren must soon decide whether to continue with current partner Honda or convince Renault to supply it.

While it had appeared even a few weeks ago that there was little chance of McLaren continuing with Honda, the situation has become more complicated recently, with sources suggesting that Ilmor has made good progress in its efforts to help the Japanese manufacturer.

As part of an overhaul of its F1 operations this year, Honda has been taking advantage of input from outside consultants to help it fast-track improvements to its power unit.

Although Honda has not revealed exactly who it has been using, sources have confirmed that the highly-respected Ilmor operation is one of those that has been working hard to help it overcome its difficulties.

And amid a time pressure to deliver answers – with McLaren demanding a step forward from Honda if the partnership is to continue – it has emerged that Ilmor’s intensive work on all aspects of the unit has produced encouraging gains on the dyno.

The news of such progress comes at the perfect time for Honda, with McLaren needing to make a decision on its 2018 engine plans in the next few weeks prior to it beginning negotiations with Fernando Alonso over a potentially new contract.

Renault remains an option for McLaren, but the French car manufacturer is understood to be reluctant to expand to a fourth supply deal beyond its current partnerships with Red Bull, Toro Rosso and the Renault works team. However, such a possibility has not been ruled out totally.

There still remains a chance, however, that Toro Rosso could yet free up a supply by making a switch to Honda for 2018 – with the Italian team’s discussions with the Japanese manufacturer understood to not be totally over.

Honda revamp

Although Honda has not made dramatic gains with its engine so far this season, behind the scenes there has been a lot of change at the company to help turnaround its situation.

It parted with ex-Ferrari man Gilles Simon on the eve of the season, and subsequently enlisted a wide range of input from outside parties – including Ilmor and Mercedes.

When asked to comment on the situation regarding Ilmor, and potential gains that have come, Honda declined to reveal any specific details – other than it was working hard on good progress for 2018.

“Although we do not deny the possibility of working with outsources [consultants], we do not disclose the details,” said a Honda spokesman.

“We are now working on the development of the 2018 powerunit but nothing specific can be mentioned at this time, other than the fact that we are working very hard to get further improvement to become more competitive in coming season.”

As well as outsourcing work, there have also been changes to the way that Honda operates, with problems related to correlation between track and dyno having hurt it earlier this year – especially when it came to translating performance from a single cylinder to a full engine block.

Speaking before the summer break, Hasegawa said: “We are changing our way of development. We’re not too much insisting on mono-cylinder [dyno] development.

“We can check factors or elements or many concepts with the mono-cylinder [block] but we now understand we need to check with the V6 to finalise our specification. So we are no longer relying too much on the mono-cylinder results.”

Track record of success

Engine guru Mario Illien has a successful past in grand prix racing, most notably with Mercedes and McLaren in the mid-1990s – scoring back-to-back world titles with Mika Hakkinen in 1998-99. Its engines have 44 F1 wins and 43 pole positions to their name.

Ilmor had previously been working on Renault’s F1 power unit in 2015, a programme that included a single-cylinder prototype provided by Illien at the behest of Red Bull Racing.

Despite initially encouraging results, Renault halted the work as it felt its own design solutions offered a bigger chance of progress.

Illien has also been attending recent FIA meetings, where the future F1 engine format has been discussed.

shares
comments
Don Nichols, founder of Shadow, dies aged 92

Previous article

Don Nichols, founder of Shadow, dies aged 92

Next article

Webber says Verstappen is "flaky" on GP weekends

Webber says Verstappen is "flaky" on GP weekends
Load comments
Hungarian Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Hungarian Grand Prix driver ratings

This was race that showcased the best and worst of Formula 1, producing a first time winner and a memorable comeback to a podium finish. Avoiding trouble at the start and astute strategy calls were key to success, but where some drivers took full advantage, others made key errors that cost them dearly

The "heart-breaking" call that led to Ocon's Hungarian GP triumph Prime

The "heart-breaking" call that led to Ocon's Hungarian GP triumph

Set to restart the red-flagged Hungarian Grand Prix in second, Esteban Ocon had some doubts when he peeled into the pits to swap his intermediate tyres for slicks. But this "heart-breaking" call was vindicated in spectacular fashion as the Alpine driver staved off race-long pressure from Sebastian Vettel for a memorable maiden Formula 1 victory

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Prime

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall...

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Prime

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Prime

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed.

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Prime

How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Prime

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021