McLaren-Honda resigned to struggle
Having used up all their development tokens, and with their new PU failing to boost performance, the rest of their year looks grim
McLaren and Honda have resigned themselves to making no major performance improvements for the rest of the season.
A new power unit with improved combustion made its debut at the Belgian GP, but its performance disappointed and McLaren produced their least competitive qualifying result since the Spanish GP in May.
Honda F1 boss Yasuhisa Arai had said that he hoped the engine that debuted in Spa would be comparable with Ferrari’s. But it remains the least competitive engine in F1 by some margin.
Arai insisted the engine had performed as expected: “It worked well, but unfortunately it did not work effectively here because it is a very tough circuit.” Spa and Monza expose the weaknesses of the Honda engine more than any other because cars are raced at full-throttle for most of the lap. The team hope the upgrade will work better on tracks such as Singapore.
The engine’s biggest problem is its lack of hybrid performance. Its ERS is particularly weak, and at Spa it was running out of electric boost halfway through the straights from La Source to Les Combes and from Paul Frère to Blanchimont. This meant the car was deprived of 160bhp for a signicant portion of the lap.
In addition to this, the Honda engine is said to be 100-150bhp down on the Mercedes when running at full power. Add these two decits together, and it's it is easy to see why McLaren were nearly three seconds off the pace at Spa.
The problem cannot be solved without a redesign of the compressor and MGU-H, which recovers energy from the turbo. Honda cannot introduce that this year because they do not have sufficient development tokens.
This lack of performance is causing friction between Honda and McLaren to leak into the public domain, with Arai stating in Hungary that the car itself is also lacking performance.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said: “We are happy to have Honda as a partner and Honda is happy with McLaren so far. Maybe we didn’t have the maturity to be performing as much as we expected, but we are working very hard as a works team and this is very, very important for us to be a works team.”