Due to the Royal cock-up by Charlie Whiting and Jo Baur – who are responsible for drafting the FIA regulations for Formula One – this season the engine manufacturers can develop the designs of their power units and implement new ones during the season.
Honda have been allowed some development opportunities for their engine too, despite the fact that in their first year of producing the new V6 Hybrid engines, the other manufacturers designs were locked in for the year.
Contrary to many people’s belief, Mercedes went flat out developing their engine over the winter and consequently have just 7 development tokens left for during the season.
Renault were left with the most tokens, 12, Ferrari have 10 and Honda were awarded 9 – based on the average number of unused tokens of the other manufacturers.
Honda have to plan carefully how to deploy their tokens, given at present their engine is behind the rest. The boss of Honda Motosport – Yasuhisa Arai – is candid about the Japanese company’s current position.
“We don’t have the complete plan yet as to how to use the tokens, which areas and when,” said Arai.
“We have already confirmed which areas are the most effective, and I know we are making a plan to apply race-by-race how many tokens we spend”.
Arai could be forgiven for being unable to distinguish the difference between engine token development changes – and the plethora of alterations the engine suppliers make from race to race under the FIA exemptions for improving ‘reliability and cost saving.’
However, Honda cannot deploy tokens ‘race-by-race’ because design token deployment constitutes a ‘new’ engine for the driver. Drivers have but four engines to use this year, before taking big grid drop penalties.
So for a driver to stay outside the engine count penalties, each manufacturer has just 3 windows of opportunity to introduce their new engine designs and these are when the driver moves on to his next new power unit.
Arai reveals the areas for Honda focus. “One area where we are weak is horsepower – we need more horsepower. So one area to use the tokens is combustion, and the MGU-K and MGU-H because energy is a very important part.
“Combustion and energy recovery systems are very important.”
Despite the FIA’s best intentions to keep the F1 engine designers focused on the ERS aspects – and away from the ICE – Honda is candid about where these changes will come.
“Maybe we need to change the combustion concept, or the turbocharger, or the camshaft, those kind of parts.
“We should try to change the combustion concept because maybe the other power-unit suppliers are always thinking about better combustion characteristics.
“Every day, on the research and development side they are thinking about it, working on or testing a new combustion concept to get more horsepower to immediately apply that.
“Maybe that’s the area to use the tokens.”
Jenson Button described the first 30 laps the recent Spanish GP as the ‘scariest’ he could ever remember. Arai promises better driveability to Alonso and Button in the forthcoming races in Monaco and Canada.
This season is fast becoming one big one big series of development programme for the re-united McHonda partnership, though at the recent test in Barcelona there were signs of encouragement. Jenson Button clocked up 100 laps on Wednesday and declared a marked improvement form the car he raced at the weekend.