After a disappointing maiden campaign for Mclaren’s reunion with Honda, there’s a lot of pressure on the partnership to deliver this season.
It’s fair to say Honda was caught napping last year. Its new V6 power unit lacked the grunt and the reliability of its rivals, leaving the two Mclarens – which were acknowledged to have decent chassis – way down the pecking order, even with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button on the driving strength.
Of all the teams over the winter break, Mclaren has perhaps had to put in the most work to make getting back to the top a realistic prospect.
Honda has completely revised its engine. Reported gains of over 200bhp were dismissed just before Christmas, but the Japanese firm has found significantly more power – much of the gain is linked to a larger and redesigned turbocharger, which sources say provided a few installation issues to fit the unit into Mclaren’s ‘size zero’ chassis design concept.
Honda’s Yasuhisa Arai said: “Learning from last year, we’ve made changes to the compressor and other hardware of the power unit, maturing our overall concept from last year. Our focus will be to test the car’s balance with the new chassis and power unit, and specifically the ERS direction during the eight days of winter testing.
“We won’t know exactly where we stand until we reach the end of the two tests, but we’re looking forward to getting back on track, gathering data, and feeding back the information to our engineers.”
The front end of the MP4-31 retains the same snub nose as the later version of last year’s car but now has a steeper sloped section down to the tip. The rear engine cover is astonishingly slim as Mclaren seeks to boost airflow over the rear of the car. Mclaren has invested heavily in revamping the car’s aero package.
Fernando Alonso said: “The aero package shows fantastic attention to detail. The whole car is beautiful in fact – it’s particularly nicely packaged from an aerodynamic point of view.
“Last year was tricky and there was a big spotlight on us, but we learned a hell of a lot. Everyone has been working flat out.”
Mclaren hopes MP4-31 can turn its fortunes around