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Honda hope for major jump in F1 engine performance and reliability after Bahrain test
McLaren Honda
Posted By: Editor   |  21 Apr 2017   |  4:08 pm GMT  |  90 comments

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.

Will Honda improve and change McLaren’s fortunes? What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below.

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Undoubtably Honda will make progress with their F1 engine, however they continue to need to be criticised, for their continued failures up to this point in time … why has their development been so painfully slow, and why has it taken so long for them to employ Ilmore and other european advisors, to find an answer to Honda,s problems …. Surely many of Hondas F1 engine designers can not be far off having a walk on the shady side of Mt Fuji, but for one thing, and that is that would only put engine development even further behind … To advance quickly they must continue to employ top european race engine designers and developers


Come on Honda, make this work please!!! It would be so good!


“we think we were able to confirm the direction of our solution with today’s running”


I wonder what was stopping Honda from THINKING about trying to CONFIRM what DIRECTION to take on a SOLUTION, after all that previous running in testing plus three gps worth of sessions.

The million dollar question though is do they have anyone who can provide an improved solution in that direction before the next race.

I mean, I’m no rocket scientist, but I THINK I could CONFIRM a SOLUTION that the rocket should point away from the Earth towards the Moon then fired. I’d struggle to make the solution work without exploding though.

Honda, why not start by making the engine with transparent covers and film the thing with high speed cameras whilst every part was monitored with sensors as it pounds round Suzuka in the back of an actual McLaren F1 car…


Finally some good news for McHonda! Alonso will be happier, maybe 😉
Am still hoping for a Honda resurgence – maybe this is the beginning!
Was checking out the flying Kiwi result in Indy cars this morning and noticed Alonso is classified 24th in the Indy Car championship already – there is a good chance he could finish higher in that championship than in F1 – which I laughed about…


it’s easy to knock honda. the renault engine is still not totally competitive after 4 years.


I really want Honda to improve as soon as possible. We have already seen the permanent decline of one great team in Williams, to see McLaren slip into that category too is bad for F1.

I wonder if the Alonso deal for Indy is in preparation for the 2018 Mclaren not living up to potential. For example, if it is clear the 2018 car will be struggling for podiums, I could see Alonso switching to a McLaren branded Andretti and spending a season in the states.

I wonder what the budget differences are in the US anyway? Surely for a team like Williams or McLaren, if F1 becomes too difficult to compete financially, they would be better switching to Indycar where they would be a much bigger fish.


I think they will exceed form in Monaco, healthy dose of luck permitting, and finish a race. I can even see points, probably in the 7th to 10th range. Actually, I expect lots of surprises at Monaco, so I’ll go ahead and say 8th for JB and 10th for Stoffel.

I just read that ZB wants McLaren at Indy every year. I’m glad to hear that. For all the F1 success McLaren has had, the CanAm and USAC teams captured my imagination more. But I’m old enough to remember them, and when Bruce and Denny and Peter Revson and Johnny Rutherford were driving…


Yes they will without doupt


This sounds exactly like last year’s press release and the one before that. It must be getting close to game over.

Tornillo Amarillo

Interesting what Lando Norris (17) says about McLaren and their young programme, it is like he could get a seat soon if Sauber takes the Honda PU…

James, If that is the case, is it like Sauber could get a combo PU-Norris for 2018 or 2019?


“Hopes for” kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Every other engine manufacturer says when an engine update is coming and the predictes improvement, with Honda one gets the feeling that it is all being thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Reliability should not be such an issue, there should be a warehouse full of engines running 24-7 on the dyno under simulated race conditions. By the time Honda catches up. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault will all have made their own gains…


I predict a podium for Button in Monaco


Between P7 and P9 I reckon.


ross brawn proposed a fees weeks ago that teams should share data to keep the competition closer. does tha mean they’ll return mclaren’s $100m?


So much could be said about the just finished late Ron era but we have heard little.
Ron by his track record was a sophisticated person who could plan with great complexity.
He would have been aware that starting from zero Honda had no chance of being a front
runner for many years.
He would have known Honda had nobody with the required skills to make a world beater in the
short term.That being 3-5 years.
He also needed a huge sponsor onboard. The F1 public are always wailing about
a title sponsor as if having a big logo and livery on the side brings magically millions.
But you only have to look at williams and Force india to see its more modest nowadays.
The money honda were bringing for engine and driver payroll was probably the equivelent
of what used to be a major sponsor like vodafone.
To top it all they wanted world champions on board for some reason.
This is where it gets interesting as you would never imagined Ron having Alonso back
but a George Smiley level of thinking and planning comes in to play from Mr Dennis.
Alonso comes back paid for by someone else for 3 development years to tick down the clock on his career. Driver and manager suckered in.
It all goes wonkey at the end as Ron is pushed out and maybe Alonso wins in the end as
they will pretty much structure the team for him now if he stays.
Maybe the Machiavellian operators dont always win long term.

Ricciardo Aficionado

I hope you’re right.


I have absolutely no idea whether Honda will turnaround McLaren’s fortunes.
Neither, I suspect, does Honda itself.

But at least they’re trying . . .


The chassis is clearly pretty tidy although impossible to judge completely until put into the top operating window needed.
The P U is not gonna get into the top tier before 2020 and therefore you’ve gotta question either parties continued involvement in F1 until then. Granted a certain % of the tech will undoubtedly be carried over into the next regs.
With regards to Alonso,honestly why waste 30 million a year on the guy.
It’s the engineers at Mclaren I feel for,they’ve created a great looking car that could for all we know be the fastest out there.
Lastly the involvement of another team provides more data. Modern F1 is absolutely a data driven formula and therefore more teams=more P U=more data. However I just don’t think Honda know what the problem is or how to fix it.
Thankfully the Mclaren road cars are awesome.


Honda pay Alonso’s salary so no sweat for McLaren there.

The problem McLaren have is that they simply can’t afford to lose Honda’s funding. The only way they can cut ties with Honda is if they have a similar arrangement with a different manufacturer outside of F1 ready to go.


Oh yes of course, I forgot they only have 2 multi billionaire share holders. Plus Ron whose worth half a billion. Makes you wonder how they’re surviving at all. Not to mention a very successful road car division and the applied technologies division.
I tell you what,I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you worded your comment incorrectly and assume it should have read that they can’t afford to stay with Honda.


No benefit of the doubt required.

‘I forgot they only have 2 multi billionaire share holders. Plus Ron whose worth half a billion’

And you really think their shareholders want to lose the continuity of $60m a year plus free engines, contribution to drivers salaries, stability, manufacturer support?? And pump money in themselves??

‘Not to mention a very successful road car division and the applied technologies division.’

Well yes they do, but not on the same planet as say Mercedes and Ferrari.


Seems that you have a magic ball and a clear hate to Alonso, but hopefully you are wrong and Mac come back strong this season


How you arrive at the conclusion that I “hate” Alonso because I suggest his 30 million would be better spent elsewhere is totally beyond me. I’ve never even met the man.


honda only 4 years into hybrid development merc took 5 years when no other team was told about hybrids thanks to currupt eccleston .merc started in 2008 before joining f1 .f1 teams in f1 told in 2013


Hopefully this is genuine pace so we can stop hearing from the Alfonso apologists.They are as rancid as the Ham officiandoes


The only solution is to take a car in Japan and test it there secretly.


When they start finishing races, I think they will end up being maybe 7th and 8th. It will take maybe couple of but with merc engines they would be fighting for 6-5 places MAX. From what I’m understood, they have quite an awesome deal with honda with plenty of money. I mean PLENTY of it. No reason to go with mercs. They would lose millions and millions and that would be very bad for their future. Ending up being 5th and 6th with merc’s with smaller budget and with no free engines would make a bad deal.


Japanese manufacturing is something to behold. Their approach to development is often an exercise in frustration when compared to ” Western” ways.

In the end when they finally unveil the product it will be spectacular.It must be equally as frustrating to the Japanese to have to answer to the likes of Mr. Brown.


It’s called JIT manufacturing…the problem is that someone forgot to wind the clock!!!!


Yet again we are promised major upgrades. I wonder if these are the wonderful things that Ron told us he had seen on the Honda test rig. In 2014 I think it was……….


mclaren said they’ll dominate f1 after mercedes at the start of the end of last season.


Honda engineers discovered that their PU was actually a GP2 engine, and turned it into an F1 engine for the Bahrain test.


Strange they just discovered that. I’m sure Alonso told them last year in Japan🤔


This is McLaren. I’ve become immune to their constant claims of “we will win this year” and “everything will be fixed by the next race”, etc, etc. It’s time they toned down their predictions, started saying “with luck” and “hopefully” for a change, because they’re not fooling anyone with their constant misplace optimism.


Alonso made me laugh with comments from the Bahrain race weekend, when he said ‘the car is so slow it’s amazing’


What is Nakamura’s credentials? Fair embarrassed himself over this one hasn’t he!


Not holding out much hope, the fact they cannot or will not explai where they found yhe solution is worrying. The ice is clearly behind in terms of development and the mgu h doesn’t sound like much to write home about either.

I’ll believe it when i see it.


Honda can,t make f1 engines_ common men. I feel some body is sabotaging them into employing esternal enginers which Honda will never do. Did you all forgot about the English engineer that used to put grano inside Ferrari engines .I think this is this case with Honda,believe it o not….


That doesn’t sound too far fetched. Someone could be sabotaging the engines to fail.


The funny side of yet another failled japanese manufacturer adventure in F1 – after Honda Earth Dreams and Toyota – is that the involvement w/ autoracing’s main goal was developing their workforce.
If so, their goal is 100% achieved already, bcs Honda engineers had to solve all kinds of reliability problems related to an engine xD


“in 2015 Mr. Ito, the president of Honda said:
There are two main reasons why Honda is taking on Formula 1.
First is our pursuit of environmental technology, which is a new Formula 1 initiative. It is our challenge to maintain ultimate energy management, and I believe this will lead to Honda’s paramount technology in the future. Also, the rigorous environment of Formula 1 is an ideal ground to produce young professionals through developing technology and human resources in the competitive world that is Formula 1, Honda will aim to be innovative.”

And their first goal was also achieved, bcs a broken engine doesn’t polute the environment… as long as it doesn’t leak fluids to the ground. xD


Inconsistent reliability is an engineering nightmare. Engineers want to know 1. what failed 2. diagnose why 3. create solution. If there is inconclusive evidence as to what failed and why, designing a solution is nearly impossible.

Sounds to me like they have a harmonic / standing wave type of vibration issue. Something in the engine at certain rpm creates a vibration that interacts with the MGU-h, causing it to grenade itself.

The odd part to me is that it’s the ICE they are behind on. They are pretty solid in Motogp, and great in Indy….

Tornillo Amarillo

I hope McLaren-Honda starts a new phase, suddenly, I have high hopes for Vandoorne fighting in the midfield this year and developing his path in F1, I think Vandoorne has a extraordinary mindset for this business, better than KMag or similar.
However it’s not attractive enough to watch Alonso in a hopefully midfield car even if he finishes races from now on.
Still early days for McHonda, they are still in the bottom.

ps: Sauber has to be crazy if they decide now this PU for next year.


Honda has the whole season to introduce new ideas and developments, sky’s the limit for them now once the token system has been dropped.
It could be a great gamble from Sauber.


Yeah, the sky’s the limit, but they surely have to learn how to get of the ground first😉


@ BW…they knew that last year so they’ve wasted another year without making any headway….in fact they are worse now!


but doesn’t it say something when the only way to get you engine into another team is to give it to the lowliest team out there… and even they have doubts about taking it!


Surprisingly good news, hope it will continue!
James, is there any collaboration on time with Mercedes or someone like Mario Illien?


but now that Fernando has fired his 1st parting shot by skipping Monaco, and doing Indy, suddenly luck may shower on Honda and Mclaren. They can now concentrate on the engine and not worry too much about the whinning of their star driver ;). I bet Mclaren and JB may even end up in the points at Monte Carlo


…and what it rains in Monte Carlo ? Remember JB is natation well skilled LOL


Yeah where does Alonso get off with all the whining? It’s only been 3 years either at the back of the grid or not finishing races, and it’s only getting worse. Shame on Alonso for whining!


No one forced him to go to McHonda. It was his own doing. He’s just taken the whining to a new level after leaving Ferrari. I like Alonso, great driver. And I find his comments quite entertaining. But after being a fantastic racing driver, he’s also been one of the best whiners, and this started long before his latest stint at McHonda🍻

Torchwood Mobile


For Fernando, eight years. Five years with the team that supposedly, “every driver wants to drive for”, Ferarri.


Fingers crossed for all involved. It’s been painfull to see Honda and mclaren struggle and even more so to have one of F1s best talents seeking his thrills in Indycar. I don’t think this would have been on the cards if Honda had created a competitive engine. I’m thinking mclaren have done enough to compete . Can Honda.


“one of F1’s best talents” that’s past tense!


Nah! I’m the opposite… never liked McLaren… cant stand their arrogance. I love seeing them down the bottom of the field. Always thought Honda as just another appliance manufacturer pretending that their cars are something special when they’re not.
I am a fan of Alonso, so seeing him in a Macca is hard to take, but I love that he’s going to Indy … sends the message ‘I’m wasting my time here’ .
I love it!


Any word on when the Mercedes rescue package will begin?


Hari kiri before that happens.


Who cares?


… sounds like Mercedes has already lent them a helping hand. Why else would Honda suddenly expect a major jump in performance ? In return i hope Mercedes gets someting out of it, like the (racing) rights to Alonsos first born child or so.


I’m quite certain that if alonso ‘s first born is part of the deal, some rather harsh anglosaxon nannying will be part of the deal: clean shaved and towing the party line junior, that’s the way to more than 2 measly mass dumper wdc’s!


Lol, mass dumper! Great typo!


I think McHonda will improve. How could they not? You can’t get any lower than they are, and still remain in the sport. They have tons of room for improvement.


I’m convinced Honda will succeed. They have a dynasty centred around the world for powerful engines set by the founder. A loss of face again would be shameful and unacceptable. In the 1960″s when pressured by competition from Yamaha, they designed and raced a 6 cylinder 250 c.c. Bike in just a few weeks.


Some insight into just how much of a technical tour-de-force the legendary Honda Six was:
Can the Honda of today come up with something that would be a challenge to reproduce with the technology of the 2050s? I don’t know if they still have something like that in them.


That was then and this is now. A different Honda. MBAs instead of engineers.


It’s just that technology has come so much further now and if they had done a 800+ hp 1.6 engine that can complete a race distance of 300 km with less than 100 kg of fuel in the 80’s or 90’s, it would’ve been perceived as witchcraft. ‘Today three years and many million pounds later that just doesn’t stack up to what the other three did.
To me that is what makes F1 interesting, stuff that is seeing as failure here would still be considered amazing outside of F1.


I think hope is the best word. I also read somewhere that they are confused by the reliability gains from the PU. If they don’t know sometimes why it’s broken and they don’t know why it’s reliable, then hope is the best they have rather than engineering ability


It’s very hard to get excited about anything related to McLaren-Honda at the moment. Things really went from bad to worse this year. I’m hoping that they indeed are on the right track and whatever upgrades they bring will be significant enough to at least head the midfield. They’re quite a few steps behind, and with other manufacturers already set in theirs ways and will more than likely introduce significant upgrades around they same time, it’s clear Honda have to work twice as hard to keep up.
A lot of fans were hoping Fernando would have a car to battle, or at least keep the front runners honest, so was I. But more than that, I was hoping for a competitive car so we can have a proper look at Stoffel, I had hoped for a good Dutch vs Belgian battle with Max. I hope it’s still possible in 2017.


I wouldn’t get too excited, it seems clearly a boost due to the temporary lift of Fernando’s curse because he is redirecting it to Indy. Expect Andretti Racing to experience problems now and Jeanson to be on the podium at Monaco.

I know it sounds crazy this fernando curse ….but it feels so real !!!


You’ve got a point there🤔



Ricciardo Aficionado

Strange veto for Ron to make. You could almost believe it came from a lack of confidence in McLaren’s ability to design a championship contending chassis. But I guess it actually came from over-confidence in Honda.

What kind of performance gain did they achieve at this test? Have they got more horsepower now?
It sounds like they’re doing a lot of work on the ice but I thought their main problem was the capacity of their energy storage…

Boullier sounds like a man happy about bottoming out. Which IS a positive after being in free fall.


Their ERS is competitive. The ICE needs work.

Ricciardo Aficionado

Didn’t they regularly run out of deployment before the end of the straight? Has that been fixed this year?


It was fixed well last year. The problem this year is that they are 30HP down on last years ICE, so the ERS has to pick up the slack. Again, with more energy from the ICE the more energy is recovered and deployed…its a virtuous circle. This year its been the reverse.


Whereas the past 2 years it was the ERS as the weak point and the ICE the stronger point of the engine


You have to have a ruthless streak for perfection and to win so Rons attitude doesn’t surprise me!


I hope honda improves. I read somewhere the Honda engine is 120bhp down on merc. With renault due to bring a major power upgrade by Canada how cool would it be if honda could finally give alonso an engine to fight with.


The main problem with Honda is it’s corporate culture of the CEO knows best…………….read Ross the Boss’s book to see what i mean.

I reckon the Japanese car industry is having something of a “mid life crisis” akin to the British car industry in the 70s, albeit in different circumstances. Back in the s****y 70s the problems in the UK motor sector was a toxic mix of weak and stupid management, a cowering and useless government that was bullied by aggressive unions and a workforce that was 99% of the time on strike. The problem in Japan today is a combination of hubris and living off past glories. Britain’s automotive industry was saved when Maggie gave the industry a clip round the ear and told it to get its act together – but do the Japanese have a Mrs T figure who will give them some harsh truths they need to hear?


Which British auto industry do you refer to?


The one producing mainly Nissans, Toyotas and Hondas, presumably.


I will only believe it after seeing Mclaren’s performance on track next time round.


Mark is wishing, the article is full of hope but here is the problem. Honda don’t know where the reliability came from in the test or previously that weekend where it disappeared. I would be a lot more happy and jubilant if they said we know what the problem was and this was the fix and here is the improved reliability. Hope and wish can be a statistical error given such a small sample size.


I ‘ve read the article full of amasement. How is that “we don’t know….” ? I think it is unacceptable.
The only thing comming to my mind was that a mechanic tripped while pushing the car to garrage and – accidentally – set the right setup, by leaning his palm on the steering wheel to brake his tumble ?!?
Are there profesionals in H F1 team ? Or just dice rollers ?


Didn’t quite get that negative of a read (even the second time) from the article and the quote from Nakamura: “. . .and we think we were able to confirm the direction of our solution with today’s running. . .”

In addition to the direct comment that they are working on improving combustion efficiency, hopefully by Canada. Sounding rather more like they are getting to the handle on where in the PU that work is needed. And yes, it was ‘guarded optimism’ rather than outright promising specific improvements – but some direction for development as well.

Maybe there’s been more information available from other sources ??


@ Garrett B…. Maybe there is more information from other sources? I have just read that there are moves afoot, to attempt tech transfers between teams!!! How alarming is that? It has been suggested that mercedes would help Honda develop some better ICE and hybrid systems. What a mess this all is. The great Honda conglomerate cannot develop a competitive PU for F1 and need outside competitor assistance. That is quite ridiculous really. Yes, companies buy in technology regularly to avoid costly R & D but in F1 which is supposed to be the highest form development series surely this is a declaration of being fourth best.


Actually, McLaren don’t know, according to Eric Boullier. Honda mentioned some non-specific countermeasures, which suggests they have an idea.


TBH…I very much doubt if anyone has any idea apart from, it doesn’t run for very long, it’s too thirsty and it sounds like bucket of nuts and bolts being violently shaken but it goes around corners pretty well.

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