F1: Reliability not performance Honda’s biggest challenge

Ron Dennis says the Honda engine that will power McLaren next season already has impressive performance and that the main concern will be making it reliable.

Honda has been working on its new V6 turbo hybrid power units for two years but comes into the sport one year after rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault first ran theirs on track. This season Mercedes had a significant performance advantage over its rivals, but Dennis is confident Honda will not be lagging behind in that respect.

“The challenge for our partner Honda is hitting dates and reliability,” he said. “The performance is pretty impressive but of course I can’t share that with you.”

Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai is confident McLaren Honda will be able to challenge at the very front of the grid from the first race in Australia.

“The new regulation package is very very complex,” Arai said. “In Abu Dhabi we did a test and got many data and in that we were already one team as McLaren Honda. I have a strong confidence with our partnership we will win next year in Melbourne and start a new era.”

Dennis said he had been most impressed by Honda’s approach to designing and building the new power units at its base in Sakura, Japan.

“Going back to Sakura, it’s hard to describe just how impressive Honda’s motorsport R&D facilities are. The best way to describe the commitment is not to describe the actual facilities, but to share with you that the geography of Sakura is quite a long way – an hour on a high-speed train – from Tokyo, it’s been built in virgin land so it’s a magnificent facility, but of course that has required some of the most senior technical staff to relocate and move their families to this area. That isn’t an easy decision for companies or technical people to take.

“You see that and you see the commitment and sharpness that these group of engineers have and the facilities. For example they have a very impressive mission control facility – we have one here [at McLaren] where your technical staff and back-up staff, sit, watch and participate in every aspect of the race wherever it is taking place in the world – but of course with Japan the time change is significant with most of the races. So away from mission control they have the facilities for 50 people to sleep and a restaurant to support them specifically so they can be there and be sharp when the race is taking place – this sort of detail and commitment is far more indicative of where we are going than the fact of having 30 of the latest and greatest dynamometers.”

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