Honda makes Formula 1 management reshuffle as Jenson Button demands more power unit progress
McLaren
Jenson Button
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  23 Feb 2016   |  3:31 pm GMT  |  57 comments

Honda has altered the management structure of its Formula 1 programme with its boss Yasuhisa Arai leaving his role at the end of the month, it was announced today.

It is understood that the reshuffle is part of a number of executive changes at Honda, as Yusuke Hasegawa, the manufacturer’s managing officer and director of Honda Research and Development, will replace Arai, who has led Honda’s F1 approach since it returned to sport with McLaren at the start of last season.

Yasuhisa Arai

Hasegawa will officially take over from Arai has Honda’s executive chief engineer and head of its F1 project on March 1, with the latter becoming the senior managing officer of the company’s R&D division.

The timing of this announcement raises questions about Honda’s response to the failure of its renewed relationship with McLaren last year, when the team finished ninth in the constructors’ championship – its worst result since 1980 – with just 27 points.

Honda’s problems with its V6 turbo power unit began to emerge at the end of 2014 when its first test with McLaren was hampered by severe problems with its electrical systems.

Stoffel Vandoorne

But as 2015 progressed it became clear that Honda’s engine design and layout were costing the team a significant amount of power and reliability. There were also issues regarding communication between Honda and McLaren and it is thought Hasegawa’s appointment will address these concerns.

Speaking at the end of last season, Arai said: “At the real beginnings of 2014 in Abu Dhabi, with electrical problems at the very beginning, I believed if we got rid of the electrical issues then it would possibly turn out for the better.

“But, over the summer was when everything was clear – that it was a hardware issue that we had the difficulty with. Then we could put our heads down.”

Button: more progress needed

On the first day of winter testing in 2016, Jenson Button completed 84 laps around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, more mileage than the team managed across the whole of the first test (at Jerez) in 2015.

 Jenson Button

Speaking after his first day in the MP4-31, Button explained that the new power unit was a step forward in terms of electrical deployment, which was costing McLaren heavily in terms of lap time last season, as Honda has revised the turbine, compressor and MGU-H for this year.

He said: “There are no negative points to the car. The standout is the deployment has been very good, very consistent throughout the day, no issues, and quite a big chunk better on the long runs compared to last year.

“Obviously it shows other weaknesses with the car we still need to improve, but it was a good day, and I’m reasonably happy.

But the 2009 world champion still reckons Honda needs to make another engine upgrade before the start of the season at the Australian Grand Prix.

 Jenson Button

He said: “[With] deployment we’ve made a good step forward, but with the power unit we’ve a lot of work still [to do.]

“[Honda] have done a good job on working on the reliability and pushing the deployment very hard over the winter.

“But I don’t think any of us will be happy going to Melbourne with the power unit. There is definitely more to come from the first race. We need that.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso is getting his first experience of the MP4-31 and the 2016 Honda power unit as he completes McLaren’s testing today and on Thursday, with Button returning to action tomorrow.

What do you make of Honda’s management reshuffle? Will it help McLaren improve it F1 results in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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1

Maybe Jenson should have signed up at Top Gear – at lead the would have been able to drive some decent wheels.

2

This is where they should have been 12 months ago… Just hope they can push Q3 this season or whatever it’s called.

3

Yasuhisa Arai replaced at the start of testing suggests he hasn’t reached the target set, why else would it be now? Eric Boulliers interview wasn’t exactly filled with joy either. And Jenson saying we need more power on day one if based on what others are doing when they haven’t even turned up their engines yet, does not sound good. Oh dear…

4

A reshuffle that should have taken place months ago, by the sounds of things.

So, Macca are still behind the 8 ball, engine-wise. How disappointing.

5

What is that large bubble bump on the left side of the nose?

6

I am glad to see them reliable but I can’t help but feel the undercurrent of “we failed” mixed in with the drivers game faces. I want to see them succeed but I find it hard to believe they have another chunk of HP waiting to be tapped. Heads are rolling, Alonso won’t sit around mid pack again. Part of the challenge for them is the Mid Pack is No Joke this year and we could see tooth and nail fighting between lots of teams from 3rd down.

7

I would imagine Honda have turned the wick down for the first couple of tests to make sure they get some decent mileage under their belts unlike this time last year. I think we’ll see their true pace at the 2nd test at the beginning of March. They won’t trouble the Mercs or Ferraris, but suspect they may surprise a few people. Keep the faith people….

8

It seems Button has the role of ‘bad cop’ this year 😉 he’s right to push Honda though – they have a lot to prove this year.

9

Oh dear!…. 2 days and already asking for a new engine. Oh Dear!

10

It is my understanding that Honda will make two steps on the engine for Melbourne. And I have to say that Jenson’s comments were much more positive than the headline would have us believe.

11

Tbh Tim from what I’ve seen of the McLaren interviews, the body language gives the most away. And it all seems a bit depressing.

12

“[With] deployment we’ve made a good step forward, but with the power unit we’ve a lot of work still [to do.]

“But I don’t think any of us will be happy going to Melbourne with the power unit. There is definitely more to come from the first race. We need that.”

It’s pretty hard for me to take these as *more* positive than the headlines. If anything I think they’re more damning. Yes, it’s only early pre-season testing but statement like the above should make any McLaren fan feel queasy.

13

You’re right. Nothing positive about it. Jenson knows how to choose his words and this is about as bad as they could be without swearing profusely.

14

Kenny not Jenny!! My apologies, not deliberate.

15

Jenny, just my observation. Worth remembering that Jenson knows full well that they have updates before Melborne.

16

Yes, most of the articles quoting Button have been a bit misleading. He is pushing Honda but he has also been pretty positive of the improvements.

17

Wow I think everyone is getting quite ahead of themselves here. The biggest problem Honda had last year was that once they defeated the teething problems (which they knew there would be) there was a problem with the combustion and layout of the energy recovery systems.

Now they sorted the combustion out during 2015 quite well but their hands were tied with the ERS. By the looks of things they have solved this problem that gave them a huge deficit on certain tracks. Furthermore its reliable. I would expect them to start chasing time in the second test as they will be running various tests and tweaks during these 4 days alongside the usual system checks.

The Merc’s and Ferrari engines will not be hugely different than the 2015 models, they are an evolution of a design so they will be more confident in running it harder and faster out of the box. I would expect the Honda to slowly turn up the wick as the week and test days roll by.

Remember Honda only have 1 car to gleam data from over the 8 days and you dont want to risk blowing it up – especially if you only have 1 or 2 engines and the length of time involved in replacing an engine!

Its the sort of start you’d actually hope they’d make. Even if they’ve magically built a 1000 BHP beast (unlikely) I wouldn’t expect them to turn it up to 11 on the first or second day?!?

18

my sentiments entirely. early days.

19

Got to say I agree, about everyone is rushing to say Honda’s season is over on the second day of testing when Alonso is rushing around with aero sensors all over the car. Runs that require consistency, not a single fast lap and a bunch of different times that are all over the place.

Even journalists that tell you don’t read into testing times normally are doing it. What do we really know? That they have got out the garage door and done a bunch of laps. Much more than same time last year. I take Jensens comments as a subtle, by the way this is a test engine and not what we will have in Melbourne hint, not a my god we are in trouble again comment. I also think he is suggesting bring more early in the season than wait until later. Think he wants to develop as fast as they can and is expressing that opinion. That is what you can take from two days…… I am sure all the doomsayers, if they run well at Melbourne, will claim a new engine spec was rushed out and saved the day. Truth will be that it was coming anyway. Lets see how the season progresses, but I am really not sure how with good miles on a test engine, that is not final spec, you can say the season is a right off? Now next test they are back to sitting in the garage with zero miles. Then you could.

20

Hopefully Honda will be willing to take on consulting help from the outside (Mercedes) that they have been resisting with the change in management. That is what really needs to happen for them to catch up. They need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and play it smart.

21

What will be Alonsos next and final adventure in F1 ? Because lets face it, McLarenHonda is D.O.A. ! But his old safety net Renault looks even worse. So what now ? F1 retirement ????!!!!!!!!!

22
Red (and white) Rob

I would have him back at Ferrari in a heart-beat. Best driver in F1 with Vettel and Hamilton.

23

I’d like to see him and Jenson both racing in the WEC, it’s given Mark Webber a new lease of life.

24

Massa’s seat for 2017.

25

Maybe he will tell his management to start talking to Red Bull for a 2017 drive. Only bridges he hasn’t burnt.

26

One can only hope!

27

Day1 Best of Vettel in Mediums is 1:24.939

Day2 Best of Merc in Mediums is 1:24.867

Is it safe to take this as a measure? hopefully no.

28

Too early, not enough information. Most teams aren’t even running their final spec chassis / engine / aero yet.

If you really want to know the pecking order of the teams, you’ll have to wait until about 6pm local time, March 18th.

29

It’s testing. Take everything with a measure of salt.

30

Why do you say hopefully no? Don’t we want it to be close?

Do you mean the cars are no faster than last year (as of yet?)

31

I don’t think they are. RPMs limited to 12000, braking forces same, HGU same, what gains there are will likely be aero. I speak of Mercedes, who I agree is right the point of diminishing returns. But then again, I feel they also have at least a second in the bank. 🙂

32

Merc sandbagged figures are faster than F1 glory runs, we might be heading for another boring season.

33

Last year Honda was slow and unreliable. They seemed to have sorted the reliability part.

But what about speed? Is it harder to make a reliable engine fast? Or a fast engine reliable?

Hope they have clear solutions to their problems unlike last year.

34

Most teams would rather have a very fast engine that’s unreliable over a slow, reliable engine.

The slow and reliable engine is only good enough for a rear/midfield position. At least with the very fast, unreliable engine you have a winning chance – if it doesn’t blow up.

35

And have you seen such a thing from Honda last 20 years?

36

Mclaren will not win with a Honda in the back of the car!

I guess we will see Button and Alonso run around in the mid field for a couple of years before they both retire, sort of like Berger and Alesi did in the Benetton’s post Schumacher. It sad to see but Alonso like Villeneuve followed the Honda money and well… his career is as good as over as well

37

Or Vettel could win the championship this year and Alonso would spontaneously combust.

38

There’s a lot of fans that won’t like what your saying, but it does appear to be heading in that direction.

I’m sure Honda will one day be back to winning ways, just not sure if Button and Alonso will still be there to lift the trophies.

39

Please don’t say things like that.

40

I have to admit I don’t understand why Renault and Honda need so much time to bring their power units up to speed. Surely by now their engineers know which part of the power unit needs focus? And surely they have the resources to fix that very problem?

Especially in the case of Honda, who’ve made some bonkers road engines in the past … surely they haven’t forgotten how to build an engine?

41

Engine is not the problem. It’s all the other frankenjunk.

42

One of Renault’s major problems last year was the piston. Honda seemed to get their engine sorted out by around Suzuka, but the ERS system continued to let them down.

43

Yes, perhaps management reshuffle is what the company needed as it paid dividends for Ferrari

Certainly the first couple of days have been encouraging for the team as the car is reliable and their ERS is working well.

With upgraded engines promised, it won’t be clear what progress the team has made till the first race.

Having said all that, I suggest Mclaren forgo 2016 and throw all their resources to 2017.

44

SV (stoffel vandoorne, what did you think?) gets a chance this year.

45

I hope someone doesn’t crash today to shift attention from this change.

But seriously, this change was probably approved pending result from first day’s test. Since those clearly disappointed the mandate to make the change was activated. Hope the new guy knows what he got himself into here.

46

Arai was a cross between a Comic Character from a Japanese satire show & somebody who couldn’t stop believing the hype around Honda ???????????? which was a complete fabrication. They just didn’t realise how far these new engines & energy recovery systems had come since their involvement in the sport. Glad to see the back of him.

But still bodes more problems at Mclaren. Alonso will walk I reckon.

47

As I write this Fernando has completed 100 laps – but way off the pace I’m afraid. It is really early days, but while the Honda seems much more reliable – it is, as Jenson politely alluded, lacking in power.

I don’t have a good feeling about this I’m afraid. Will Fernando begin negotiationg his sabbatical this evening?

48

Without reliability, you can’t tune for power. That was Honda’s problem for about the first 19 races of last season.

At least now, if they’re getting the reliability, they’ve got a chance at dialing the engine up for more power later.

49

I really hope you are right and that the power will still come. Let’s see what happens!

50

Try to find the positives, slow and reliable is at least better than slow and exploding. JB must be doing the rain dance every night at the minute, it would explain our winter.

51

This year it will be slow and reliable. Next year, fast, but exploding. And the year after that, hopefully, fast and reliable.

Unless Bernie changes the rules again, in which case it will be back to square one: slow and exploding.

52

I guess then, building off your comment, at least McLaren have really made a step forward. You’re totally right it’s “better than slow and exploding”. Maybe next season it might be fast and reliable. 🙂

53

Looks like Alonso is off to Barbados by the sounds of things

54

I hope so, it will be the end of his little dream.

The arrogance shown, believing that he is so special that he has nothing to learn and something to loose trundling around in the midfield is illuminating.

Jenson beat him last year, many times in Quality and the Race as well as overall, without conveniently having a team manager who is also his personal manager, arranging better cars, support and advantages for little fernando, he has not looked that great has he ?

55

Would explain why there is no Alonso 2016 merchandise in the McLaren/Honda store!

56

Can’t see that happening unless it’s still in production. Drivers make a mint from merchandising as do the teams.

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