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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

Alonso (left) and Bri­ton But­ton

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