Honda’s F1 progress: False Dawn or the end of the beginning?
Posted By: Declan Quigley  |  01 Aug 2015   |  8:26 am GMT  |  201 comments

As Honda plans an all-important upgrade following the summer break, the burning issue for the Japanese engine manufacturer and their partner McLaren is whether it will be enough to sustain the apparent progress made in Hungary.

Their first double points finish of the season, courtesy of fifth place for Fernando Alonso and ninth for Jenson Button, is a world removed from the pain of locking out the back row of the grid at the season opener in Melbourne or more recently not being in any way protagonists at Silverstone.

But it’s also still a world away from being competitive, at the front of the field, where McLaren and their two world champion drivers belong.

Honda Motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai has described Hungary’s tenth round of the championship as heralding the real ‘beginning’ of the season for McLaren Honda.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Malaysian Grand Prix - Preparations - Sepang, Malaysia

However, Hungaroring is the second slowest track of the season and was always likely to be a target for a team running a car with a power deficit revealed by McLaren boss Eric Boullier to be in the region of 120bhp to the benchmark Mercedes power unit.

Add in the fact that Alonso and Button were restricted to 15th and 16th in qualifying and that only 15 cars were running at the chequered flag after a somewhat topsy turvy race for teams that would normally finish ahead of McLaren in Budapest and the picture looks a lot less rosy.

Even the best McLaren Honda spin doctors would not pretend that their machines finished ahead of both Mercedes cars on merit alone, suggesting that operational efficiency, stellar driving and a large dollop of luck contributed to the result.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Hungarian Grand Prix - Race Day - Budapest, Hungary

McLaren have been pushing their engine partners for developments and Arai has stated that there will be no summer break for his engineers as they battle to introduce development for the next phase of the championship.

There has been some talk of the next step being a 50bhp upgrade which even if true and coming with attendant ‘driveability’ and energy efficiency, is still less than half way to closing the gap.

What was encouraging for the Tokyo-Woking axis was that Hungary was the first time that Honda have felt confident enough to run their power unit at ‘full power’, although Boullier clarified on Saturday night that the drivers would not have full ERS use during the race yet.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Melbourne, Australia

Interestingly, and encouragingly, McLaren have not recorded a finish outside the top ten in the last five races: they’ve retired six times and scored points with the other further four car starts.

After failing to get off the mark until round nine at Silverstone, Fernando Alonso is going for a hat trick of points finishes at the next round in Belgium. Worryingly, though, Spa Francorchamps is a pure power circuit hence the motivating words from Boullier for his Japanese colleagues in Hungary.

“I hope that Honda is aware of the situation and has a plan to make up for lost time,” said Boullier. “You cannot buy time of course, but you can add resources. So where 450 people is sufficient now for Mercedes, Honda needs 700 so that we can catch up.”


In the background there continue to be interesting developments in the ownership of McLaren, with Ron Dennis yet to put on the table the money required to buy control of the company by acquiring shares from the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund, as promised when he returned to the helm in 2014.

Therefore the question of how long Dennis will continue is one that will be closely scrutinised in the second half of the season.

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Stone the crows

Boullier doesn’t seem to have a lack of hyperbole, increase the manpower at Honda to 700? By that illogic McLaren should do as Mercedes does and acquire for themselves the equivalent of two Nikki Laudas.


Mr.Allen, did you think Alonso can win his third world championship in few years time?


I will go on record and say that I think that ship has sailed. The longest gap between successive titles is 7 years … that was Lauda, winning in 1984. G.Hill and Brabham both won their last title 6 years on from their previous one, and Hamilton joined them in that last year.

Of course, Alonso is a special enough driver to be able to break that bit of history, if the car is there. So if anyone can, he can. But I still think the odds are against him.


@DarrenLin, of course he could. 42 is equivalent to 17 pts in the old system, and Kimi bridged that in two races in 2007. Of course he needed huge misfortune to peg back the leader then.

So it’s totally possible. It’s not likely though. It’s more likely than Hamilton’s chances in 2013 though, when I recall the same sort of stories after a sensational win in Hungary before the summer break.

If it did get really close they would likely throw their weight behind their best bet, which is Hamilton.

Have to also remember that before the rain, Ferrari were going to be max 5th at GBR. Williams’ worst races this year will be MON, HUN, and SIN. They should go well at BEL and ITA, maybe even ahead of Ferrari at both.

What’s apparent this year is that to get an unexpected result, the start and first lap have been crucial. Every race – except for MAL, MON, and GBR – has been won by the car that was first into the first corner. MAL saw the leader cede P1 because of an early SC; MON had the crazy pitstop from an overly dominant Lewis. GBR is the only one that doesn’t fit the pattern, or can’t be explained away.


so do you think Sebastian Vettel can win this year championship?


I can’t see it happening either Random, wishful thinking perhaps.

I remember when Ford were transforming into Jaguar there was talk that GM might supply an engine badged as a Cadillac, but there wasn’t really alot of stats to show that an F1 presence correlates with an increase in car sales.

Detroit for that matter is a former shadow of itself these days. Aren’t many Rolex watches being sold around those parts.

Fast n’Furious sequels for Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi !


It’s convenient for mclaren to be able to blame Honda. Let’s not forget that their chassis last year was pretty much the slowest Mercedes powered car and it was hardly the class of the field in 2013. They need a shake up in all depts. The drivers say the chassis is good but it’s difficult to prove, performance at Monaco or Hungary usually indicate a good car, this year those results have been fairly meaningless. Singapore will be the next test. Their performance should be more akin to red bull who are clearly being held back by their engine.



Don´t know what happens with the comments, I´ve tried to send mine twice but it was not published. Any idea?


You wonder how closely Toyota are eyeing off Honda’s progress at the moment. Whether they are inwardly chuckling to themselves or thinking we really need to be part of this. After all this V6 turbo era is more their genre than what the V10’s were.

They were having some success with Indy cars and le mans at the time but they could not harness the beast which is F1. Plus there were a couple of established teams then that they could of partnered up with.

Instead they thought they could walk into the most expensive stable and buy a champion racehorse, whereas in reality they ended up trying to wrangle a brumby and break it in themselves.

How many Japanese do you ever see wearing cowboy hats?


“How many Japanese do you ever see wearing cowboy hats?”

Are we talking real people or cartoon people? If it’s the latter then it’s more than a few 🙂

Anyway, I might be wrong but I can’t see Toyota coming back anytime soon.


Now I’ve read several articles stating that the upgrade will only bring 15hp not 50. Are they kidding?


James Allen what exactly does “End of the beginning” mean?

If you had said “Beginning of of the end” I would have understood what that meant in simple terms, as in the breakup of the Mclaren Honda partnership if the engine performance does not improve.

But “End of the beginning” means in simple terms means…?


The end of Episode III and hopefully the start of Episode IV?

In other words now that we’ve got the crap over with…


They did KRB, but after George went and turned to the dark side there emerged J.J. Abrams: A new hope 🙂


Those prequels really effed up the franchise, didn’t it? I imagine that George Lucas circa 1983 would dearly love to kick George Lucas circa 1999’s ass!!


The end of the intro period, coming off the nursery slopes etc


Really am hoping this is not the case.

Honda has, however, denied reports suggesting the Spa upgrade will amount to up to 50 horse power.

“We hope to gain 15 horse power from the changes,” an unnamed engineer told Omnicorse. “A small step in the long chase of Mercedes.

“Before the end of the season we also hope to take advantage of the other four tokens that will remain.

“We are aware that we are behind the competition, but we are working like crazy to try to recover,” the source added.


Hi folks I’ve been watching Mc Honda all year very closely and yes it was agood result at Hungary but I would qualify that by saying I did not see any improvement in the performance of the car look how far back Alonso was at the end they are still close to tree seconds a lap of race pace pretty much the same as the start of the season. They made the best of what they had presented to them on a plate so well done for that, I feel Spar will tell another story, looking forward to it very much


Before taking any step forward in HP, I think they should seriously work on their reliability and durability of their engines.

Their [Mod] engine is barely lasting one race. Quite a contrast to their reputation of reliability for road cars.

I read one article from ESPN that back in the 80s, Mclaren/Honda took 5 years before they became dominant. It took Mercedes 4 years before they became dominant (2010-2013). So That MEANS…..

Alonso won’t be champion anytime soon. Did he just wasted one decade driving uncompetitive cars?


Imagine a another year of mclaren with mercedes in 2015… I think the partnership with honda is worth it.


Not sure why everyone is crying that Honda’s development has been horrible. What you have to understand is that Honda is most likely holding back a major update and only been legaly implementing reliability changes due to the constraining token system. It makes sense for honda to get acclamated with their motor, study it, and then start development of a large update to make the best use of its tokens working in harmony, and allowing for the biggest step forward. Taking your time to develop and implement a well thought out b-spec motor based on data they have collected just makes sense. Its smart that they havent engaged in several knee jerk reactions and uselessly burned up their tokens. I would wait until Spa at minimum before calling for Honda’s head.


It is the first year of McLaren-Honda and it was expected that issues will happen. That’s a long term project. Before Merc dominance, it was Renault on the RBR. How long took Merc to be where they are? Success can’t be achieved in the blink of an eye.


Brawn GP.


I think fuel consumption has been an issue for them as well. At Monaco a graphic was briefly shown comparing a McLaren-Honda’s fuel consumption to a Force India-Mercedes, and the Honda had used 10% more fuel. No coincidence that they have been strong at low fuel consumption tracks and poor where fuel consumption is high. I wonder if they have made any progress on this.


You also have the more fuel – less heat along with the mixture/combustion combination which they are searching for. Plus of course – they are using the ice more.


A bit but I really do think they are expecting changes in the regulations as the have lobbied for and archived in the last 15 years of moto GP!


Did we even see a fuel-use graphic from FOM during the last race? I don’t recall there being one.


It’s a bit chicken-and-egg though; without ERS working fully then fuel consumption goes up as the mechanical does more.

Simillarly, when ERF is fully operational they should be able to optimise the brakes – currently they must be running mroe braking than teams using ERS to give retardation.


Comments still vanishing, tried twice on this thread now.


Still seems to be related to the length of comment.


Too long or too short?

I’ve seen and posted both (mostly short:) ) and speaking for myself I’ve had no problems for the last few days.


120BHP deficit is just too far off! Either they stick with Honda or they run back to Mercedes and gain 120BHP with a new contract, benefiting also a motor with proven race winning reliability!

The HONDA experiment was nostalgic but the reality is that HONDA are not in the game!

While HONDA finds 120BHP, I don’t think Mercedes or Ferrari are twiddling their thumbs.


They are hardly going to tell the truth!

Almost certainly half that but only the other teams data will tell and that will have a wide variable.


Returning to Merc – if allowed – means accepting that they wont win champtionships. This is not going to happen for McLaren, so they need to stick with Honda (or another supplier) to play withe the championship contenders – Merc, Ferrari, and Red Bull (say what you like about Renault, Red Bull are still in the position of being prime for an engine supplier.)

And anyway, if Honda fail, no otehr engine manufacturer will come near F1 with the current rules, so Bernie wont let it happen.


I understand the limitation for Macca, but how will Bernie ensure that Honda achieves success? Is he going to add rules that pull back 120BHP from Mercedes (and probably Ferrari) ?

I don’t see how Macca can be competitive for at least another three seasons. There is something inherently wrong with that Honda designed engine.


whatever the results are now it was never likely that honda or anyone else would turn up and be winning races this year or even next year.

Mclaren would have known this but you have to keep talking in the positive with the sort of people that follow F1 cos they all read the same self help book.


Supposedly the ICE is meant to produce 600 bhp and the MGU-K 160 bhp, total 760 bhp.

Anyone who thinks Honda can’t produce 600 bhp reliably from a 1.6 litre V6 turbo engine is crazy. Back in the 80’s they made over 1000 bhp from a 1.5 litre V6. The actual issue is making it while using only 100 kgs per hour as monitored by the FIA mandated fuel flow meter. As anyone with any internal combustion engine tuning experience will tell you that requires one hell of a lean mixture. And/or finding a way to trick the FIA fuel flow meter. Once such method is increasing the fuel pressure beyond the 400 bar that the meter was reportedly rated to. To date only two teams are reported to have been reliably using up to 500 bar (7,350 psi), that’s Mercedes and more recently Ferrari. Renault have previously reported 250 bar and Honda were targeting but may not have reached 500 bar.

My understanding is that the FIA requested updated fuel flow meters rated to 500 bar and set a maximum fuel pressure limitation at 500 bar to prevent teams exceeding the capacity of the updated meters. This occurred prior to the Hungarian GP.

I don’t know about you guys, but it sure makes me go mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!


+1 – like I said earlier – watch for requests for ‘regulation changes’ under the guise of improving the show…

It may not be perfect at the moment (largely teething and the well documented heat issues) but if here is the slightest change in turbine speeds or fuel flow – they are far better positioned (combustion experiments and linear layout) to get the benefits of such. (For example – more fuel will for a given layout also help cooling issues. More speed will explore the efficiency of the turbine layout and therefore the ERS output amongst other things)

Hence no doubt the ‘woe is us’ attitude at the moment.

Waiting for a Bernie ‘ reg change ‘ to help… 🙂


This is a good comment Gary, however, Honda knew the rules and constraints before they started designing the engine. Saying that they can design an engine with a lot of power if unlimited fuel consumption means nothing. The rules were known to them.


The Toyota WRC restrictor bypass was TTE, Toyota Team Europe based in Cologne. Specifically Dieter Bulling, not a very Japanese name.

The additional fuel tank was a BAR initiative, not Honda. If I recall correctly it was one of the reasons (not the only reason) that Honda eventually took over the entire team.


Having worked with a Honda works team a couple of decades ago, the Japanese are very much sticklers for the rules. As a result they would not be inclined to stretch the regulations, as in the exploitation of a weakness in monitoring equipment. If the regs say 100 kgs per hour then they would be philosophically inclined to ensure that they never exceed 99.9999999 kgs per hour. A generalisation for sure, but F1 teams are not at all like that, they look constantly for loop holes in the regs themselves as well as areas of non enforcement. I’m not so naïve as to think that a team knowing that the fuel pressure monitoring equipment was only accurate to 400 bar would not exploit that by running theirs at 500 bar. After all that’s why we have countless reg updates, wording changes and clarifications every F1 season. Plugging the holes that the smartest race engineers in the world are looking for every minute of every day.


What about the Toyota WRC team a few years ago or Honda’s extra fuel tank on Butyon’s car for which they skipped a couple of races?


Good article that Warley, was not aware of these design variations. Kudos to Honda for doing it their own way also and not just copying Mercedes’ more conventional, or at least proven approach. Perhaps certain tokens they have left may prove to be more advantageous?

Anyways while the performance so far this year appears fundamentally flawed or at best rather experimental, I don’t think Honda partnered up with Mclaren with the idea of having a crack for the short term and pulling out after a season or two just to save face if it didn’t work. Same goes for Mclaren. Ron Dennis made it clear that he wasn’t interested using a Merc PU to be just an also ran behind the factory team.

Hope they get their sh** together sooner rather than later, as Honda and Renault for that matter need to hang around for obvious reasons.



The credit goes to Craig Scarborough of Autosport for the Honda engine article who I forgot to mention. Honda have certainly pushed the boat out but it does not seem very seaworthy! As for Ron, I can see that he does not believe that McLaren could win a WC without a ‘works’ PU but I am prepared to bet that Christian Horner fancies his chances of beating Mercedes with the same engine. Maybe Mercedes will let him try! As long as their engines are winning races they would not be too unhappy. Even they would probably like to see someone challenge Lewis and lets face it Nico is not doing too well in that department at the moment!


Yeah a Newey chasis with a Merc PU would be very interesting to see.

Nico is just feeding of Lewis’ crumbs, when Merc renewed his contract in Germany last year I thought this somewhat premature, more based on his performance against an aging Schumacher rather than his ability to go head to head with Lewis for the title. Reliable but not a game breaker.


I was hoping that McLaren-Honda have some extra performance ready to be released once the reliability issues are sorted out. We are at the half of the season and I think that this may not be the case. That is a pity. Honda started one year later so they knew exactly what they needed to achieve in order to be competitive. It is one thing to not be able to sort out the reliability and completely different to start the project with wrong goals from the start, though those goals should have been obvious.


Andrew Benson’s McLaren report is hilarious, although I know one should expect nothing less.

He gave the McLaren chassis a 9/10, and Alonso a 9/10. Seriously that guy needs to get sacked.


Alonso hasn’t put a foot wrong, and in order to avoid a penalty got out and pushed his car – turned out to be a great decision given his result. Worthy of a 10 I’d say.

Some of his other scores are interesting though.



I hace to agree with you regarding Andrew Benson.

He seems to have a wild scoring system regardiing Mclaren & Iits drivers.

Though I’d prefer Alonso in a better car it’s really not a realistic score to give him 9/10, 7.5/10 maybe.

Mclaren performance is a downward dive.

Honda didn’t give enough time to develop the engine, instead they spluttered into the 2015 season.

Mclaren should add “Kick Start” to their name. As the drivers definitely need the extra pedal for downhill emergencies.

Andrew Benson is Surplus to Requirement on the BBC F1 site. It should be handed over to a nuetral administrator. Jeremy Clarkson 😉


Agree Pkara, Honda seriously underestimated the challenge of this new hybrid turbo era, it’s a whole different world from when they were dominating in the late 80’s. Back then they produced the best turbo engine, but the only other competition was the Ferrari turbo which was a dud in comparison.

Honda don’t actually win much in any form of Motorsport apart form touring cars. Mercedes and even Ferrari are on another level in this day and age.


“Andrew Benson’s McLaren report is hilarious”………”Alonso a 9/10”

Quite right NickH. Alonso should get 10/10!


Definitely a False Dawn.

Nothing more!

Nothing Less!

How the Mighty Mclaren have fallen into a desperate shambolic bunch of Coughing Clowns!

Everything Honda touches (except the odd Moto GP, IndyCar Seasons) turns to calamity these days.

What ever happened to the Japanese innovative engine delivery of the Senna years at Mclaren?

Honda left everything to the last minute & now are reaping the rewards … fighting at the rear.

Hungary was a lucky break, but Spa & Monza they’ll be lapped twice over!


If 120bhp is the current deficit there are doomed.

From last year they knew the benchmark from Mercedes, you can be behind a few bhp, but 120, it is very telling how unprepared and incapable Honda is. There is no excuse.

I agree, eventually, they will be there, but how many seasons Honda needs? 2,3,4… maybe 5?

Another question, how reliable is the new update?

Reading between the lines, unless they have another very very very lucky race in Singapore, there is no double points score for McLaren for the rest of the season, just maybe a point here and there.

Alonso will not be DWC with McHonda.


McLaren are moving forward slowly but surely. They are only several Honda breakthroughs away from contending.


“McLaren are moving forward slowly but surely”

I think that’s their basic problem right there 😉

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