Last dance for Honda and McLaren in F1 – What are your abiding memories?
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Nov 2017   |  4:56 pm GMT  |  240 comments

Abu Dhabi this weekend marks the final outing for the ill fated McLaren-Honda partnership after three seasons. It is a momentous date for the Japanese manufacturer as it marks their 400th Grand Prix start this weekend.

There has been plenty of glory along the way in Honda’s various appearances in F1 – 1964-68 as a team; as an engine supplier from 1983-92, and again as an engine supplier and then a team from 2000-08 – but not this time around.

The last three seasons have been disastrous for the company’s reputation and the divorce with McLaren was a sad but inevitable consequence.

The best results were a pair of 5th places in Monaco and Austin 2016. This year’s best result was 6th place in Hungary.

So what are your abiding memories of this star-crossed marriage?

For many the defining image is Fernando Alonso stretched out in a deck chair after breaking down in Brazil. The Spaniard has also memorably criticised the Honda engine on the team radio a few times.

On the positive side, Alonso was the only non Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari driver to top the time sheets in an F1 session this season, setting the fastest time in Q1 at Silverstone.


How could something so right go so wrong?

Together with McLaren they have made 140 starts and while the first era from 1988-92 brought victories and three world championships for Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, the 2015 and 2017 seasons are the two worst in McLaren’s modern history.

Honda had a torrid time in 2015 having underestimated the time necessary to master the F1 hybrid turbo technology. They struggled for power and for deployment from the Energy Recovery System. 2016 saw progress and everyone expected a step up, closer to the benchmark in 2017.

But they had made a fundamental mistake in doing a whole new engine; a mistake they will not make again from 2017 to 2018. Sources with knowledge of the programme suggest that they also empowered young engineers on leading the design of the 2017 engine, with not enough experienced engineers giving input.

Yusuke Hasegawa

“From last year to this year, we have completely changed the configuration concept of the engine,” said Honda’s F1 boss Yusuke Hasegawa. “We tried to do a little bit too much, the modification, so that’s why I have decided to keep the concept for next year, so that from a reliability point of view we are pretty much confident.

“So we need to squeeze more performance from the same concept of the engine, so that’s what we are currently doing.”


Where do they go from here?

“I am incredibly proud of how hard everyone in the team has worked this this season,” said Hasegawa.

“I hope that we can end the year on a high, not just for them, but also for the McLaren Honda fans around the world that have supported us during the last three seasons.”

Next season Honda will partner with Toro Rosso, while McLaren will move to the Renault engine, which has won three races and scored 11 podiums this season. The team and drivers have said that these results, achieved by the Red Bull Racing team, provide a benchmark and a goal for them next season.

In recent races there have been signs that the Honda engine is improving, albeit that the drivers are still obliged to take new parts and penalties. Getting the parts to perform and last the required distance will be Honda’s challenge.

Brazil was a stronger race, with Fernando Alonso able to battle all race with Felipe Massa’s Williams and Sergio Perez’ Force India.

Other lasts in Abu Dhabi include Felipe Massa’s last race (after an unexpected comeback); potentially Pascal Wehrlein’s last F1 race for a while; the last race for US TV network NBC Sports (next season the coverage in the US will be on ESPN).

What do you think of the McLaren- Honda partnership and what are your abiding memories? Leave your comments in the section below

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1

My overwhelming memory will be the complaining and moaning from a supposedly top racing driver. He has done nothing but blamed Honda all season.
This is after he waited and waited for the Honda dealbto be in place before he signed the contract.
This guy is pathetic. He screwed Renault over the last time he drove for them.
God help him if he doesn’t get podiums at least 4 times.
I used to think he was a great driver, I didn’t ”like” him as I like some other drivers but this guy is far too mercenary. He is horrible, shows zero loyalty.
I hope Toro Rosso get a few podiums next year with Honda power!

2

“On the positive side, Alonso was the only non Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari driver to top the time sheets in an F1 session this season, setting the fastest time in Q1 at Silverstone.”

What a horrifically depressing statistic, which just illustrates that it is the regulations which are a complete mess not just Honda (and to a slightly lesser degree Renault).

It was clear from the first couple of races of 2014 that this era was going to be painful, but nothing has been done from the regulations side to help the situation (if anything constant tightening of engine usage rules is doing the opposite)…

Funny that, innovations like flexible bodywork, mass dampers, blown diffusers, double diffusers, X-wings, active suspension, traction control etc. etc. etc. have all been outlawed when it has become apparent that it is detrimental to the racing.

It’s quite clear that too much power lies in too few hands that now the opposite situation exists when there is clearly a ‘locked-in’ advantage for a small number of outfits and regulation changes only go to exacerbate the situation.

3

Fernando (was it in Montréal?):
“GP2 engine, GP2 engine!”

4

I think Button’s performance in Austria in 2016 was the top highlight for McHonda in the past three seasons. His brilliant qualifying could be attributed to his mastery of changeable conditions, but finishing 6th in the race in a McHonda one of the most prominent power tracks was a fantastic achievement.

5

James, thanks for reminding the Q1 lap from Silverstone. It was indeed one of the most exciting moments this year. I’m afraid without that it would really be only negative memories.

6

Fernandos engine imploding on his first lap out of the pits for practice at the Spanish GP and leaking all its fluids onto the track! If the relationship had any chance of surviving it ended at that moment!

7

From the top down all the way down, the McLaren Honda V6 hybrid project was the very definition of hubris. It doesn’t matter how trophy laden your history is; badly run teams who make poor decisions deserve to do badly. My memories will mostly be of the early days of the project with Ron’s boastful rants about “complete domination” before the Honda engine had even raced a competitive lap in anger. The uncompromising single-mindedness which defined his success in previous years became his downfall.

8

Was Ron Dennis totally oversold on a product by a team of whiz bang Honda salesmen who actually had no idea at all ?. Honda must have done a great job insofar as i don’t believe that Ron Dennis is a fool and easily led.

9

Does it really matter? There were plenty of others who took a far more dispassionate assessment of Honda’s potential and were proven right. Ron built his house when he insisted that you needed to be a manufacturer to win, so he talked himself into it, and as a team leader it was his job to assess whether his engine supplier was indeed up to snuff. McLaren-Honda’s spectacular failing has probably been responsible for selling more Mercedes-Benz road cars than their marketing could ever have dreamt.

10

I can’t help thinking they’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water.
Yes the Honda experience was misery; the ignoble and torrid struggle was painful to witness. Yet; that suffering will bring rewards for TR next year who will probably reap the rewards of Maccas struggle. Time will tell but can they really keep on getting it so wrong?
I doubt it and others will benefit from Mclaren’s struggles.

11

Yes they can. Because Mercs, Ferrari, & Renault are not standing still are they. Your confidence in Honda is admirable, but have they demonstrated they can deliver? Whatever Renault deliver next year will be better for Mclaren. They just need a breather, and go racing for the 1st time in 3 long, painful years. If torro rosso reap the benefits, good luck to them and red bull, but I doubt it.

12

My abiding memories? Pain.

13

No more Honda product ever.

14

Honda failed because they didn’t hire any non Japanese engineers, so had nobody with any knowledge or experience of a working unit.

McLaren failed by hiring the delusional narcissist alonso, a little man with an absurdly big ego. Has anybody ever, outside of the boxig world, come across somebody so shamlessly and falsely convinced of their own genius?

Alonso can whine all he wants about Hondas failings, but yet again he highlighted his own unemployability. His treatment of Honda was disgusting in the extreme. He deserves the ignominy of obscurity in the non points scoring positions absolutely, he got beaten by a Rookie 10 years ago and he has never got over it, profesionally or mentally.

15

Wow. There some Alonsofobia there.

16

Conversely i think Honda’s treatment of Alonso/McLaren was disgusting in the extreme primarily for selling something that they could not produce and when they did produce it was a complete dud.

17
Clarks4WheelDrift

Whereas you have moved on 😉

You need to watch Disneys Frozen mi’laddo and sing along with Elsa.

18

“I just got passed by a Manor!”

19

@ Bob W…yes,another great one from the master.

20

GP2, GP2, alonso had so great races but it boils down to GP2 GP2 engine comments thoughout the year just a shame for both sides

21

For me the saddest thing about the alliance was the dismal end it brought to Jenson Buttons career. Even his swansong at Monaco this year where he could have obtained good points was ruined by the grid penalty.

22

Can I have another bite at the cherry?

The grud-awful temerity of Honda to announce, within a third disastrous season, that 2017 is “Year One”.

I love Japan, but that is utter bull [mod]!

Whoever thought that was a good thing to say, should be fired, and then their CV back-checked to see if they conned their way into a responsible position.

What [mod]ding nonsense.

23

Alonso wasn’t able to battle Massa all race in Brazil. He happily sat on the back and used the DRS and draft to get a boost down the straights to increase hs overall laptime which would have been hideous had he not done so. The McLaren chassis is undoubtedley good as Alonso was easily to stay with Massa through the twisty bits, but he never really challenged him for position as just didn’t have the power on the fast bits.

24

Alas, my abiding memory from this fiasco is “Fernando. My lawn mower is faster than you.”

25

Has the Amazon behind the scenes documentary on McLaren carried on through this year? That has the potential to have recorded some excruciating moments during the season and could be a remarkable story .

26

My ‘abiding memories’…it just confirms how bad these Hybrid PU’s have been for F1…so sad… a giant like Honda couldn’t be competitive despite getting outside help from world-class engine experts such Ilmor Engineering.

27

I find it very odd that Honda could not get on top of things. You can argue that these engines are complex, but Honda are one of the largest engine builders in the world.

The failure, I think, is a combination of

– entering F1 a year too early
– changing the concept for 2017, starting almost from zero again
– Honda’s unwillingness to bring in external consultants earlier

Of course, all this is based on what is written in articles.

The weirdest part of the story for me is the fact that Honda keep struggling. They’re 3 years into it now and they’re still not on top of it.

28

Honda just coming good now – and will do better than Renault reliability wise next year.

29

It would be just Alonso’s luck if Honda come good next season and McLaren are fighting with Toro Rosso for points!

30

Even Alonso is that unlucky!!

31
Clarks4WheelDrift

Abiding memories:

1) Honda’s excuses over the year with no progress then relief as they pretend it’s all reset and they’d be better next year, then repeat…

2) About 18mph down on speed through the traps, enough that a Honda at full speed could be hit by a full speed proper F1 car and cause a right mess 😉

3) Grid penalties : 305 place drops in 2015, 140 places in 2016, well over 100 in 2017 including a classic 75 place drops at one GP in Azerbaijan.

4) DNS four times and Not able to Qually 5 times

5) Classic deck chair to FA, JB SV raidio snippets, more than equalised by great drives, even recently like maintaining DRS on Massa to hang on to points etc.

6) Pushing the broken car uphill back to the Hungary pit lane, reminding me of Prost pushing his Renault over the line.

7) Alonso’s out lap at Silverstone on damp track slicks to just make the flag then nail the next lap.

8) The monster Oz flip crash right past the camera position.

9) Honda failing to deploy as their algorithm got ‘confused’ as to where Alonso was on the track at Spa because Alonso took Pouhon flat out resulting in a loss of 150bhp or whatever on the straight with Hasegy saying “Honda would likely need to change its procedures to ensure there is no repeat”!
Basically being too fast for the car!

10) The impending destruction of the Torro Rosso Honda team…

32

I don’t think McLaren will do much better with the Renault engine, There really are only 3 teams and we know who they are. Renault’s own team are way behind Red Bull, it’s not all about the engine. The Honda engine is showing signs of improvement, it is Alonso’s influence that has outed Honda, a great driver but Alonso has not always made the right moves in his career, sadly for him, who really should be where Hamilton is now.

33

This moment where we all were laughing out loud as it was obviously due to a faulty timing system! …and then it wasn’t. =8-!

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