Neither McLaren finished the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain last weekend but the final day of testing at Sakhir showed a marked improvement in performance. Stoffel Vandoorne managed to complete 81 laps of testing with the fourth fastest time – 1m32.120s was the Belgian’s fastest lap of the whole week.
Major engine upgrades from Honda are most likely to appear at Montreal in June, with new cylinder heads and more work on the combustion process to counter the power unit’s lack of efficiency, according to Michael Schmidt at German outlet Auto Motor und Sport.
Honda’s principal engineer, Satoshi Nakamura, expanded on the manufacturer’s progress, stating, “We also made some progress today with the set-up of our PU in order to acquire better driveability and reduce the vibration.
“Based on this analysis, we implemented provisional countermeasures against the issue on our PU [power unit] and we think we were able to confirm the direction of our solution with today’s running,” continued Nakamura to the official F1 website.
Wednesday’s testing result was something of a coup, given that Vandoorne’s MCL32 did not even start the Grand Prix due to a water pressure issue in the Honda power unit.
Problems this season have included oil tank, electrical and vibration issues in Honda’s revised V6 hybrid turbo engine. The deficit to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault is, and has been evident throughout these three races.
Boullier, McLaren’s racing director, said that the team “managed a proper test” with engineers frantically trying to remedy the Honda power unit’s issues. The team’s only finish of the season came at the opening race in Australia, as Vandoorne finished 13th.
“I’m really happy with the work we’ve completed today…We’ve been able to run with a more aggressive set-up today, gathered a lot of information and tested a lot of solutions, so in terms of both data and results it’s been a very positive day of testing,” he said.
Honda has also spoken with Sauber with a possible engine supply deal for the Swiss outfit materialising in 2018. Talks with the engine supplier were verified to have taken place by Autosport, with Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn confirming.
Sauber currently uses Ferrari’s 2016 engine, a specification which was introduced at the 2016 Italian Grand Prix in September. Hit by financial difficulties last season until it was acquired by Longbow Finance SA in July, Sauber might still find it more commercially viable to source an engine from Honda next season.
With the cost of engine development due to reduce a further €3 million next year, both struggling teams could benefit significantly if the deal goes through and Honda fixes its current problems. McLaren’s former CEO, Ron Dennis, was thought to have vetoed any possible supply arrangement but his ousting in 2016 increases its probability.
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