There are good signs coming from Woking recently that indicate that the McLaren Honda partnership is now on track, and functioning as many expected it to when the historic partnership was reunited for the 2015 season.
Results are still lacking one could argue for the Anglo Japanese collaboration, but clear improvement to track performance has been made this year as opposed to last year. McLaren are currently 7th in the constructor’s championship behind Force India and Toro Rosso, despite a great result in Hungary for Spanish driver Fernando Alonso and the team.
Racing Director at McLaren Eric Boullier thinks that the partnership is functioning better than ever before, and is optimistic for the future.
“Obviously we now have Yusuke Hasegawa [working with us],” Boullier said, pointing to the Honda-directed switch from previous boss Yasuhisa Arai over the off-season, “He joined the programme in January and the relationship has never been so close as today. “It is very collaborative, we are meeting regularly, more than regularly face-to-face, even if today there is some technology to do video calls or whatever. I think the project itself is getting more mature and so I think [it’s] all fine so far.”
Hasegawa agreed with the racing director, also preferring to focus on the future as opposed to the happenings of the past.
“I don’t know about last year, but this year I have a really good collaboration with McLaren and I think we are progressing together,” he noted, “I think it is a very good thing.”
The chassis and engine divisions of the team are the first to acknowledge that the Budapest race last weekend somewhat flattered the MP4-31. Slow and twisty circuits appearing to suit the car much better than power hungry circuits like Spa and Monza, which are coming up after the summer break. Both also parties also agreed that there is still performance to be unlocked from this year’s car, before fully switching focus onto next year and the new 2017 regulations.
“I can just tell you [the amount of work and effort we are putting in] is 100 per cent – and even more,” Boullier said of the task of developing for two very different seasons, “We are still working on this year’s car and we also work on next year’s car. I can’t disclose in which percentage we are working on [each], but I can tell you, after the shutdown, most of the pit lane will work 100 per cent on the development of next year’s car. That is it, but we are working very, very hard.”
Next year will also see a new engine rule come into force, where teams will have to use only 4 power units for the whole season regardless of the number of races. This year saw the teams being allowed to use an additional unit taking the allocation for the year to 5. Honda are hard at work on the 2017 spec engine, but also adamant that there is still a lot of development and understanding to be learnt from this years unit.
“Of course, we have already started the 2017 engine development, but we won’t give up this year’s engine development as well,” Hasegawa confirmed, “So, it is a difficult judgement [regarding] how much resources we have to divide…. I’m sorry I can’t describe the exact number, but we do both jobs so far.”
After the race at Hockenheim this weekend, the teams will re-group and enjoy the shutdown period of the summer break. When they return, McLaren will be hoping that they can push on to challenge Force India in the standings, and end the season with a top 5 constructors finish.