Getting closer: McLaren test gives new HONDA F1 engine thumbs up
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  30 Sep 2016   |  4:36 pm GMT  |  38 comments

McLaren will give Honda’s latest Formula 1 power unit the “green light” for use over the rest of the 2016 season after Fernando Alonso successfully tested it during free practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Ahead of the weekend in Sepang, the Spaniard was given a new internal combustion engine, turbo, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics after Honda spent two tokens (it now only has one of the 33 allowed remaining) making its engine block more durable and lighter, and upgrading its exhaust.

Alonso finished fifth in FP1 and seventh in FP2 using the new engine.

Fernando Alonso

As a result of using yet more power unit parts three races after he accumulated 60 places worth of grid penalties at the Belgian Grand Prix, Alonso will lose 30-places ahead of the race in Sepang, which means he will set just one qualifying lap in Q1 then sit it out,

After seeing Alonso’s Friday practice performance with the new engine, McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier stated that the team would use the new upgrade for the rest of the year after Honda picked up the data it needed to prove its worth.

He said: “We are happy with today, we did a lot of miles with no issue at all. So it’s a green light for the future, for the end of the season.

Eric Boullier

“It’s mainly reliability-driven, so it’s a reinforced block and a few things on the engine. There is a possibility to exploit the power unit a little bit better, but it’s definitely not just pure power on top.

“Fernando made a positive start to his weekend by immediately dropping into the groove and looking impressively quick at times. It’s frustrating that he’s facing a grid penalty, but it’s something we’d already factored into our weekend.

“We’ll work hard to provide him with a car and a strategy to best cope with that setback on Sunday.”

Fernando Alonso

McLaren knew Alonso would be facing multiple engine penalties after he lost one power unit as a result of his huge accident at the Australian Grand Prix and then encountered mechanical problems during the first half of the season.

Speaking in Sepang paddock ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, the double world champion told reporters that that when it realised he would be hit with grid penalties, McLaren came up with a plan for him to receive the new engines in Belgium and Malaysia – two races that are often disrupted and usually feature plenty of overtaking – to minimise their impact and try to ensure good reliability for Honda’s home race in Japan.

He said: “We had a plan from the middle of the season of where to introduce new engines. Obviously I lost one in Australia in the accident, [so] we were on engine number two already in the second race, and we had some further problems. We knew these penalties [would] come.

Fernando Alonso

“One of the best places was Spa, because of the condition of our engines at that point, and the second best possibility was Malaysia, because the weather could play a big factor in the race.

“And also Japan is the next race, our home grand prix, and we want to arrive there with some safety in terms of reliability.”

Despite the grid penalties, Alonso is still hoping to finish in the points in Malaysia as he came through from the back of the grid to finish seventh in the incident-filled race at Spa.

Fernando Alonso

He said: “I’m ready to take the penalty. In Spa, starting last, I was fourth or fifth after many incidents, so you never know.

“We will start the weekend and the race optimistic about the chances of being in the points, and that’s the target for both cars. Even if I start last hopefully we can recover places quite soon.”

Boullier indicated that Alonso’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button will not use the upgraded engine components at this race as his power units have not come to the end of their mileage life.

Jenson Button

The team also wants to avoid grid penalties at Suzuka, which means the 2009 world champion will have to wait until the US Grand Prix at the earliest to try the upgrade.

“Obviously they don’t want to take any penalties in Suzuka, which is completely understandable,” Button told the pre-event press conference in Malaysia. “It’s basically our second home race. Here, I personally won’t be having a penalty. It will be a normal weekend for me.”

What do you make of the news that Honda will give Alonso an upgraded engine to try in Malaysia? Will it make a difference for the rest of McLaren’s season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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I don’t know why this is so…….but when RB win 4 in a row, Renault get a small mention. When Mclaren won with a Honda engine (Prost, Senna) everyone praises the amazing engine! It just seems that Renault need to win as a team to get any recognition whereas Honda can profit immensely just by supplying the donk.


The stronger block alliws them to run TJI, (turbulent jet ignition)
Ferrari use the system made by Mahle, Merc probably do too.


back to normal after giving back the advantage..


Alonso’s penalty has increased to 45 place … looks like he will have to start his race from Singapore on this Sunday! Luckily this rule will change next season.


A little concerning Honda’s upgrade was for reliability – shouldn’t this have been sorted already and now the upgrades be for power?


Teams should be penalised for engine changes not the drivers. What’s the point of a 30 place grid penalty and why is it the driver’s fault for upgrading an engine, or changing multiple unreliable ones ? The team should be penalised by not being able to acquire constructors point’s for that race. Driver’s should only be penalised for driving incidents!


Although the rule has turned out to be a contrived sort of thing, it does have the benefit of placing a capable driver in a decent car behind some slower rigs, enlivening the broadcast. But I think it a shame that Jenson will not have the same benefits as Alonso – even with the lost starting positions. We have, though, seen in the past that with Jenson and Fernando both well down the lists, Fernando seems to do the better job of overtaking. I’d really like see some more racing between these two on equal terms.


You’d have to be slightly bonkers not to believe mclaren honda could win races next year and challenge for the title in 18.
How sad for Alonso it would be if Stoffel were to take the wdc from under his nose.
As for the rest of this season……..I guess with the other teams allegedly halting development then they could creep up,god knows they need to!


Prior to the running the Honda, McLaren had the best engine and were unable to win with any regularity. I can’t see them becoming successful any time soon, despite the claims that their PR department keep making.


Great news! Chikara no Honda!


Finally! Maybe? Pretty please with sugar on the top?


I’d really like to see Honda, especially, get some reward for all they have gone through. I have a Honda generator with inverter that has been absolutely bullet-proof for almost a decade. So, they do make amazing machines. Also I have a lot of time for the company in the way that they sold on to Braun, to ensure their employees would have some security. So – loyalty begets loyalty.


You can never underestimate Honda.
There is an iconic Honda U-turn at Indycar when they introduced its engine through RAHAL.
Indeed in the first year the engine was underpowered and unreliable.
So Bobby Rahal dropped teh engine to trade it for Ford.
But the next year the Hondas were the engines to have and Chip Ganassi made his legend in USA.

About Button I don’t understand why not use a new updated drivetrain in Suzuka and then use the older one lifetime in another – less prestigious – race.


Different era & basic ICU type engines with a turbo in indycar then & still. That’s where Honda have always been good at producing good ‘engines’ not these complex ‘power units’.

F1 madness in progress – slower, heavier, more expensive & sound dreadful. Good for what? Oh forgot really efficient & appear environmentally friendly (when that is hypocrisy at best for the sport).


Hope it makes a difference.
But it’s a lottery as with everything Honda these days in F1.
Most likely result a fuel pump issue or a complete engine failure by the first turn.
Hope it’s a good one and not a Dud one.
Fingers crossed for a good one Honda HQ.


So… is Alonso is taking a penalty but is he using an upgraded engine doe the rest of the season or not?

“Alonso finished fifth in FP1 and seventh in FP2 using the new engine, but he is expected to revert to an older spec power unit for the rest of the weekend.”


Who thinks Honda is proving anything positive with their F1 effort?

What are the chances of a McLaren Honda WDC against this Mercedes, RBR, Ferrari lineup? Honestly.


For example. Look at Red Bull and their TAG engine. Today they are second to Mercedes. Does anyone say Renault is good? Or TAG? Or do they say the Red Bull chassis is awesome? I don’t think anyone even mentions the TAG engine or Renault engine with Red Bull. Is this the type of value Honda can expect when they start winning? You know, talk about how awesome the McLaren chassis is?


No, chance at all! 😎




I don’t know, I think I’d trust McLaren to get a championship before the current Ferrari crew (drivers excluded, they’re a great lineup). Having said that I think only RB have a chance of taking it to Mercedes.


If Mercedes are toppled by aero rules, will anyone teally praise the engine as making that success possible? So even Honda would they win, not sure they get much credit with 2017 changes.


They’ve made enough progress to justify their effort. Merc took 4 years from the time they took over Brawn and that was with other teams using their engines providing very useful data, including, ironically, McLaren.
Honda would never return to F1 unless they were going to make it stick. Their principal success has been on the back of being an engine supplier, not a team effort. I wish them well.
James, on another note. If in a team, one driver/car had a surplus of engine credits, can the team use them for the other driver/car? Thanks.


No, that’s not how long it too. It took barely 2 years from the moment they pillaged McLaren and opened their wallet to invest for the transition to this era. And let us not forget what and why Brawn existed.


No they are not transferable


It’s posts like these that turn manufacturers off competing in F1. Any wonder that BMW chose other Motorsport. We should encouraging more manufacturers not discouraging them. They are taking a chance, backing their engineering skill, how about not cutting them down.


are you serious?
a post on here is putting manufacturers off f1?


If my post has such power we’d have V10s back by now.


And racing with proper tyres, not flakey ones! 😉


Yeah, delusions of grandeur Sebee – It’s almost like they’ve won a championship before… 😉

Honestly, what the chances of an anything-but-Mercedes WDC right now? Nil, but next year, who knows? Better to sort it out now and come out firing in 2017, and then we’ll see where everyone is again.

Could be Mercedes, could be Red Bull…or it might – just *might* – be McLaren.


Where everyone will be? You think any other team but RedBull and maybe Ferrari bridge this gap next year? You think some magic will unsettle this? You’d be a fool to bet against Mercedes in 2017. You can hope, but you’d be foolish to do anything but.

Unless they fix it to give Honda ROI, they have no chance. It might get really ugly next year for Honda.


Perhaps Sebee, but there are two things you’re not taking into account:

First, toward the end of ’08 no-one would have picked Brawn to be the team to beat in ’09, and similarly no-one would have picked RBR to be the only team to really challenge them – Surprises can and will happen, especially after a big change in the regulations.

Second, Honda have made great strides even though they’ve been hampered by the stupid token system, and at the end of this season that system bites the dust.

With the exceptional job that Mercedes have done they can likely only make marginal improvements, but do you care to guess what the others could do with a free rein?

It’s true that Honda has the most catching up to do, but that also means that they have the most to gain.

I don’t know if I’d bet on McLaren, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against them 🙂


Not in the distant future, that’s for certain.

By the way Sebee, I’ve rumbled you on why you love electric propulsion: you don’t live in Los Angeles, have a great big villa in Bel Air, have shares in Telsa, and are good friends with George, Brad, Leo, Jay [Leno], Cate, Ben et al while suffering from a guilt complex about a bank balance that outperforms an African country???


Electric just makes sense now. It will make even more sense as batteries continue to improve. Plus, I’m sick of it. Seeing cars idling in traffic wasting tons of energy around the world each and every day and funking up the air we breathe. Time to start the transaction in a big way. F1 on the other hand? Let it entertain us with V10s!


Transition. Not transaction.


Since Alonso has ALREADY incurred the grid penalty (isn’t that so?), why wouldn’t he use the unit during this weekend’s race?
McLaren are getting to have a pretty good little chassis, with this engine, even starting from the back, Alonso, with any help from safety cars and/or tire flexibility advantage, should be able to get well within the points.
Why wouldn’t he use the new engine this weekend?!

McLaren are coming; they could be right in the mix next year.
(fingers crossed)


Don’t hold your breath on that for 2017.
McLaren will struggle to catch the 3 leading teams even if those teams stood still on development for 12 months.


I disagree.
Ferrari seem to be constrained from their ‘legendary’ baggage!
Look at Renault, sure they dropped the ball after winning 4 in a row (should have been 5 except for the wizard Brawn geeting the double diffuser in as legal), but they will definitely be there by next year, and likely with a competitive chassis, and two hot drivers!
I, like many, I assume, was disappointed by Honda’s last entry into F1, totally lacklustre. But they have twice as much to prove, and they are not afraid of trashing everything and starting from scratch again (as they say they are doing with their hydrid concept design between 2016 and 2017 specifications).
I have a feeling that won’t go away, that Alonso is going to have a storming drive in Malaysia tomorrow, so that all of those who stubbornly praise the ‘samauri’ will puff up their chest a bit.
We’ll see.

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