McLaren boosted by Honda’s ERS gains but Silverstone is the real test of the team’s F1 progress
Jenson Button
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  05 Jul 2016   |  12:21 pm GMT  |  35 comments

McLaren’s improved showing at the Austrian Grand Prix was down to Honda extracting more performance from its ERS systems; according to the Japanese manufacturer’s Formula 1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa.

The British team endured a torrid time at the 2015 Red Bull Ring race as both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were hit with multiple grid penalties for changing power unit parts and the Honda engine struggled on what is considered a power circuit.

This year, Button qualified fifth and started third thanks to his prowess in the changeable conditions that occurred in Q3 and the penalties that relegate Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel.

Jenson Button

The 2009 world champion ran second in the early stages and kept Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at bay for a number of laps. Button ultimately finished sixth – his best result of the year.

Speaking at the pre-race press conference in Austria, Hasegawa explained that in addition to the improved turbo Honda had introduced at the Canadian Grand Prix, its ERS system is now delivering more power, which is a significant boost for the McLaren drivers on the straights.

He said: “Regarding the turbo, we introduced a new turbo in Canada. Of course we are never satisfied with the performance, there is always room to improve.

“Regarding an ERS system point of view, we have some limitations in the regulations, the maximum power is 120 Kw and also the energy is limited, so from that point of view I think we have achieved almost a decent, satisfying level from the turbine.

“Last year here the power was cut off in half of the straight, so it was a disaster last year. So from that point of view we are proud of that.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

But Hasegawa believes that Honda still needs to improve the internal combustion engine element of its V6 turbo power unit and explained that this would be tweaked for 2017.

He said: “On the other hand, the internal combustion point of view still we need to improve the engine performance and we are currently trying the very hard job to redesign, not redesign but to improve the engine for next year, so that is on-going.”

Honda is likely to introduce more upgrades to its power unit in the coming races, but Hasegawa explained that these would only be included when the manufacturer is confident they will deliver a performance step

He said: “We are hopeful that we can introduce some of the upgrades in a couple of races. I have already confirmed we see some good elements, so as soon as we are ready we will introduce it.”

Jenson Button

Button’s result in Austria was his best F1 finish since he came sixth in the 2015 US Grand Prix, and the British driver reckons it was more than the team could have hoped for before the race.

He said: “We still had some great battles out there and to come home sixth is much better than we had hoped. I think we thought eighth was probably on the cards.

“The cars that beat us are all much quicker than us. To beat Williams, Haas, Force India – it’s a good day.”

Honda’s power unit performance in Austria moved McLaren in front of Toro Rosso, which is a clear sign of progress. The team was also boosted in the race by the cooler temperatures on Sunday and the two sets of soft tyres it had saved after Friday running, which was the preferred race compound.

Fernando Alonso

Although Alonso retired with a battery failure, the demanding nature of the Red Bull Ring on power units means the team can take encouragement heading into its home race at Silverstone. This will be a real test to see if McLaren, and Honda, have made a genuine step or if it was track specific.

Button moved to down play expectations ahead of the British Grand Prix but said he was still looking forward to racing in front of his home crowd.

He said: “Silverstone is going to be tough. It won’t be like this unless it’s weird conditions, which it can be. It’s in the UK, so of course the weather is going to be terrible, so I look forward to that.

“It’s a tough week, especially for the mechanics. I think it’s put a smile on their face. So now we pack up, travel 1,500 kilometres to the UK and look forward to the British Grand Prix.”

What do you make of Honda’s recent power unit progress? Do you think McLaren will perform well at Silverstone? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Its amazing how people see success like merc and think it happened over night. They look mclaren who has been under the spot light since day one and because progress has not been a quick as they like its automatically failure. Honda has made more progress then mercedes made within the first few years on their engine dev.


Im really looking forward to the new upgrade from honda. I wish they can implement the upgrade asap in Britain!


Listen to Jenson, they will be nowhere again at Silverstone unless the weather mixes everything up.


Great to see McClaren crawling their way back. I hope, when the car is running at the front again, that Jenson gets the chance to take some glory. He deserves at least that after all the hard work and diplomacy he has shown over the last 2 mchonda years. He’s a racer and a true gentleman, a real credit to McClaren and F1. I will miss him when he retires, as I think many of the other drivers will. Good luck at silverstone McHonda.


It’s a bit painful to see Honda struggling so much.
Has there been any reasonable explanation for Mercedes extreme dominance?
(It’s been a long time since I check into F1)


It’s slow, but there’s definitely progress. Hard to believe it’s the same team from last year. Hasegewa seems to have a clearer and more realistic direction than Arai. The upgraded ERS clearly has made a decent impact. I was expecting them to get ripped apart in Canada and Baku. Though they were out of the points, they were far from embarrassed. I read that further upgrades could be on the cards for Silverstone, if it works out. That would be welcomed.


I never thought I would live to see the day I would be pulling for stuffy corporate McLaren. But watching them methodically claw their way back up is fascinating and they have become the one team I watch with interest each race weekend.


And it’s not corporate Ferrari or corporate Mercedes…..?


Just receiving a car working properly is enough for ALO, in Austria the Spaniard had battery problems from lap 3 after some tyre mistakes in qualy (recognized by Boullier) and a yellow flag (provoked by his team mate) that it ruined his lap.


On a separate note – the comments system is all screwed up here, isn’t it? If there is more than one reply to a comment, the replies are displayed in reverse chronological order – so the first replay made will be shown last, and vice versa. On another thread, it made it seem like I was being reprimended for being abusive, when in fact it was the respondee before me in the list.

Added to that the “quantity-over-quality” nature of the star rating, which actually rewards the submission of lots of nonsense rather than the quality of response.

When the system was rolled out, we were invited to comment. Most people picked up on these problems, yet nothing’s happened.

The old system wasn’t great. But it was better than this. WordPress OOB give a much richer experience.

The headline editorial is excellent; with a few exceptions the commentary is of high quality and informative; but the comment system is just dire. Sorry James, I’m not trying to be rude, but you DID ask for feedback!


I totally agree, the reverse chronological order of the replys to the original comments is not only counter intuitive but also messes up the timeline order of the comments section, making it almost impossible to follow a discussion.
I would welcome changing it to a “normal”, chronological order.


Well McLaren are progressing – but slowly. Last weekend was down to Button and the weather rather than the car. Fernando probably gave a truer reflection of where they are although I believe he has a problem from quite early on. I will be surprised if they have improved enough to have podium potential next year.
Anyway, I’m more interested in whether Jenson will be there. He’s lost nothing in pure speed, unlike Kimi for example, and I will be surprised if they go for the next “wonder kid”. Other than in qualifying, none of the drivers Mclaren have put against him so far have beaten him – and that includes the two other world champions. But we will see.


Well Hamilton did beat Button two out of three years… To use the argument that he scored more points over the three years isn’t really a fair assessment as Ham had one really bad year. I like Button he is one of my favourite drivers and I really hope he is on the grid next year but to try and argue that he beat Hamilton over their time together isn’t an accurate analysis


Slowly slowly McLaren-Honda seem to be getting there. It is widely thought that they have one of the best chasis on the grid (probably just behind Red Bull and Mercedes) but it is the PU that is holding them back. It appears it is starting to get there though. I would guess (and this is based on a gut feeling and not a great deal of data) that they are about a year behind Renault now, which is quite impressive considering how late they started and how far away they were. But there are also still big gains to be had, especially with the law of diminishing returns.

I hope Honda can do it as McLaren should be near the front fighting for Podiums and wins. Next year will be an excellent opportunity to make a big jump forward as the regs will be favouring aerodynamics again and McLaren seem to have built an excellent aero team behind Peter Prodromou who brings a lot of experience having worked closely with Newey for several years. And given a chance you know that Alonso will deliver. It’s a shame that Button is unlikely to be with the team next year as it would be great to see those two duking it out closer to the front as their battle is often lost on the TV coverage due to the midfield location.


Big Test at Silverstone superfast track .
Will be a test for engine durability.
Weather looks stable for the weekend too.
All the best to The Mac Lads.
And the The Brits on Home Turf.
Will be there giving Rosberg the welcome he deserves ? ?.
Come On Lewis Button and JP ?.


Considering the flack that mclaren have had to endure it is a remarkable turn of events and i am very glad to see that there is a glimmer of hope that they will be serious contenders sooner rather than later. how button and alonso have managed to remain as composed as they have been is a mystery to me! well done mclaren/honda keep up the good work.


I would love to see the McLaren break into the top 10 for the speed trap times during a race. I would see that as real progress. It always seems they are never there (probably because they haven’t been).

Stephen Taylor

I’m going stick my neck out and say McLaren will be leading team at the start of 2017 closely followed by RBR then Mercedes then Ferrari . Their aero department is possibly as good as RB and Honda and are really making strides with the PU which will be aided by the scrapping of the token system next year . James seems to think RB will be ahead but I think McLaren will run them close and probably be ahead.


I’m pretty sure they’ll be 4th best next year.


Wow, that is a bold prediction. I know they will already be putting a lot of resources into next years car but I still think it is to early for Honda. I hope you prove me wrong though! Definitely a jump forward but to the very front….?


I am really impressed with the way maclaren are slowly making gains….night and day from last year

Obviously not as good as they would like being former champions, but if they can re design bits on the engine over this winter they will be podium contenders next year ……the new rules are the best thing that can happen to mac-honda


Honda are making steady progress, it seems to be taking forever though doesn’t it?


The problem is, it’s the last 0.5 seconds that is the hardest to find. I don’t think McHonda will ever win a race in normal circumstances. Honda re already looking to supply another team, so the performance shortage is clearly chassis related too.


BVBN, yes the law of diminishing returns is difficult to break, but does apply to the others as well. I think another team running the Honda PU would help McLaren, the unit would get more mileage and therefore data.


I’m not sure how you can make the jump from saying Honda are looking to supply another team to make the assumption that the performance is also chassis related…. While Honda do not supply another team it is hard to make a proper assessment of the PU, the McLaren chassis is widely regarded by many knowledgeable in the sport as one of the best chassis – just behind the Mercedes and Red Bull


The Mclaren chassis amongst people in F1 circles is the 6th best. Behind Toro Rosso comfortably. They are on last years Ferrari engine remember. Alas Honda are being made the scapegoat for Mclarens woes, and this is no longer the case. Remember Mclaren were very slow with the championship winning Mercedes engine too, in 2014.


Really? So you think the Honda is better than last years Ferrari engine? Last years Ferrari PU was very good and not far off the Mercedes standard so for Honda to have jumped that would have been quite a feat considering how far off of it they were.
As for the 2014 McLaren, Peter Prodromou joined McLaren in 2014 so didn’t have any influence over the 2014 car and his influence on the 2015 car would have been quite limited as the cars design would have already been well under way by the time he joined. This year has been the first chance for him to completely influence the aerodynamic design of the car and the drivers are very happy with the aero balance and the handling. But to say it is the 6th best chassis when it is very obvious that the PU is still down on power (look at speed trap speeds) and that the car worked well in the wet (in Buttons hands) which is often a good indication of downforce. They are getting there slowly. Peter has changed the philosophy o McLarens aero. McLaren always used to look at peak downforce but now look at aero efficiency and balance much the same way that Red Bull do.


Speed trap figures say very little. You must have noticed that Mercedes are very rarely top of this, as it depends on how much downforce you run. And McHonda are never at the bottom of the speedtrap, they are in fact more often in the top 10, near the Ferrari’s. Mercedes Paddy Lowe said it himself, all the Power units are very close now, the weakest being the 2015 engine in the Toro Rosso. Not alot wrong with the Honda at all anymore.


What is it they say?
“Better late then never”
“All good things come to those who wait”


James, yes they do say that, I wonder how much longer Fernando can wait though…..


I think you have to keep in mind that Ron D said when the Honda deal was done you can only win championships as a works team and the key with these engines is how you deliver the electrical power. Merc then kept them with a basic version and no mapping of the power delivery. But take the ride onboard with Jenson at the start. No drama, no wheel spin, just smooth power delivery. I doubt that was all internal combustion. I think this is power mapping. They maybe able to get down the straight with electrical power the whole way, but I think this is MUCH bigger than that. It is delivery at important parts of the lap. This was a car that handled well in greasy conditions of Quali and did not get eaten alive too badly by following cars. Honda came in a year early, McLaren could learn little from the first Merc engines of this era. This is an example of hard work and where the next performance boost is going to come from. And in the wet, the down force looked pretty good too. It may seem like forever, but hopefully there is enough in this to keep them at the front for a period of time. Just hope Jenson gets one season with text years car to really push Alonso and see who wins.


Yes TimW Ron Dennis looks like a weary traveller waiting for his ship to dock in. Cobwebs and Tumbleweed.
Honda need to pull their finger out and start to deliver.


Pkara, yes F1 is all about delivery, difficult to look at Honda’s involvement to date as anything but a failure.


Yes, quite. The ‘piece of jewellery’ engine, as Dennis put it, is yet to deliver.
Would be a lot easier without the token system and limited number of engines per season I suppose.


NickH, maybe, maybe not. The tokens system limited the ability of the manufacturers to throw money at problems, I wonder what sort of budget Honda has in comparison with Mercedes and Ferrari?

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