In Autosport today, the Honda chief Yusuke Hasegawa declared that their engine improvements on the dyno are simply not working on track and does not understand why they’re unable to transfer virtual results to actual results.
Sound familiar? Around 5 years ago, Ferrari were struggling with a similar situation with their aero and wind tunnel work. Upgrades simply wouldn’t work on track. Unfortunately for Honda and McLaren fans, it took the boys from Italy many years to strip out current working methodology and invest into new facilities before finally results came their way. It could be argued the fruits of this change have only just started to blossom in 2017.
This year, Honda have been working on significant tweaks to its V6 engine in a bid to improve reliability and performance and close the gap to rivals. In fact they’d hoped to roll out a major performance update for last weekend’s Grand Prix in Canada but decided to wait to allow for testing and development. Further, it seems that a good portion of the thinking behind the halt of that update was for reliability concerns. “We can’t create good conditions on the dyno,” admits Hasegawa.
“We need to create the same conditions from the track on the dyno.
“The operational conditions are different so we need to understand why that makes a difference to the reliability.
“Last year, we could prove engine reliability on the dyno so we need to understand why now there is some difference from dyno to the circuit running – it’s not easy.
“We need to improve the accuracy.”
This issue of performance translation to real world results is one well known by the big boys in F1. The top teams have invested heavily into VTT’s, or Virtual Test Tracks, over the years. With the new tyre and aero regulations for 2017, these tools are even more critical than before.
VTT’s are much more than simple Dyno’s as they mimic the conditions found on track by incorporating a wind tunnel, rolling road along with an engine dyno. VTT’s the team’s solution to the testing bans imposed by the FIA in an effort to cut costs. Ironically, VTT’s cost way more than the original banned solution but I digress.
The VTT’s also help harmonise the relationship between the car’s ICE (Internal Combustion Engine), ERS (Hybrid & energy store), suspension geometry and aerodynamics – critical for success with this highly complex engine formula. It’s obvious that in order to perform on the circuit, the engine and team are required to be geographically close and not with an 8hr time delay, half way across the globe – a la McHonda.
These realities are finally dawning on Zak Brown and McLaren, harmonised development a far more critical factor than being a dedicated ‘works’ team. Indeed even a non works team in the form of Red Bull Racing are believed to have invested in a VTT housed within their new Building 9 at Milton Keynes in an effort to co-develop their ‘Tag Heuer’ power unit variant of the Renault engine. No doubt the works Renault have benefitted from that investment also.
Success is unlikely unless Honda are willing to change their culture of work and change their thinking. Become F1 rather than keep to their own introverted processes that might work for building road cars and try to force that model onto the McLaren project.
The clock is ticking… or has it already tocked?