Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

McLaren-Honda relationship under “maximum” strain

2017 F1 season

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McLaren has admitted its relationship with engine supplier Honda is under the “maximum” strain following its troubled start to 2017.

A series of engine failures has limited the team’s running in the first five days of testing. Team principal Eric Boullier admitted they are still waiting on an upgraded engine to address one of the problems which surfaced in testing last week.

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Testing day five in pictures
Asked how much strain his team’s relationship with Honda is now under, Boullier admitted it was the “maximum”.

“But obviously we are in Formula One, we are racing, and we have to perform so the pressure is obviously huge,” he added.

“We put the maximum pressure on our relationship with Honda and the same from them. We can’t have a foot a step wrong, we have to deliver the best car as well so this is both sides.”

Boullier continued to firmly deny any possibility the two could be about to split.

“No, we have a contract in place,” he said. “We don’t even think about it.”

“There is a solid contract between us, a long-term contract. And obviously we want ot build on it, even if it’s not the best or ideal times yet.”

Boullier added the team is “running the same [engine] spec as last week so obviously that doesn’t mean any changes in this block or any modifications done.”

“I think the next spec will have addressed part of this problem or most of this problem,” he added.

But asked when that new specification would arrive Boullier replied: “Ask Honda.”

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Keith Collantine
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  • 64 comments on “McLaren-Honda relationship under “maximum” strain”

    1. It sounded like Jenson wrote that headline! From “Massive Understeer” to “Maximum Strain”

      1. Or Hamilton… Or most F1 drivers… But yes I agree.

    2. Honda needs to change its work culture, that typical closed of Japanese culture is clearly not doing anybody any favours. They should have accepted Mclarens help in designing the PU when it was offered to them.

      1. I think it’s time to look elsewhere. Time to find a placeholder engine and start again. Maybe buy Renault. Mercedes would be ideal as the design philosophy was copied by Honda.

        1. Could McLaren do their own engine? Maybe BMW?

          1. I was thinking the same, BMW should enter

    3. They think this is Maximum strain, just wait till the Aus GP and their first failure there (we all know they’ll have one).

      1. Maximum strain will be achieved in Melbourne just after –
        1) They blow at least 2 more power units during practice sessions
        2) They line up 19th and 20th on the grid
        3) They get lapped by midfield teams
        4) Alonso call them a GP2 team in front of the entire world
        5) Their engines blow up during the Australian GP while in last place

        That’s when they’re going to be under maximum strain.

        I think Zak Brown should be sensible and brave enough to drop Honda at the end of the year and somehow secure a Mercedes engine deal during Mclaren’s period of ‘consolidation’, where they can at least achieve respectable results until they have a permanent solution for the future. One thing for sure is that Honda do not belong in the elite of motorsport, and any team associated with them is bound to fail.

        1. It is not that simple, Honda is their Major sponsor and they get free engines…

          1. I don’t think cash flow is Mclaren’s biggest problem right now. I’m pretty sure it’s performance in F1

    4. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      7th March 2017, 16:26

      I tend to think McLaren probably need to rethink the way they approach Formula One in at least the short term, from being a frontrunner or a big player in Formula One terms to a midfield runner. I mean this ‘downturn’ of performance has lasted several years and they don’t really appear any closer to the front. A lot of that is Honda and their inflexibility but McLaren’s not without blame here either. Only a few years ago they were renowned for starting with a bad car and having a brilliant one by the end of the year but now they just don’t seem anywhere near that capability.

      I can’t imagine how deep McLaren’s pockets are to survive this long with such little return but eventually something’s got to give. I tend to think McLaren’s insistence of being a premium or prestigous brand hurts their ability to deal with this kind of situation and I can’t help but think this ‘downturn’ isn’t going to go into an upward swing for a while yet.

      To be honest I think Honda could do with powering another team – the added data for the engine surely would help. I tend to think having their own backed team, even part-ownership, would help them too – without the ‘pressure’ of McLaren they could develop the engine as slowly as they like.

      1. Currently they are lapping faster than Sauber, so maybe Honda could strike a deal with them.

        1. There is a reason why Sauber didnt get a new contract for ferrari engines..

        2. Sadly Sauber is using Ferrari 2016 PUs. If Honda serviced two teams they would have ran out of PUs by now. No way they would have had 12 PUs ready for testing…

        3. @drycrust

          Not really. Sauber has put in much quicker times in the previous test, including a sub 1:22 lap on softs. Mclaren hasn’t been able to break the 1:22 limit even on ultrasofts.

          People might think I’m joking, but I’m going to claim that Mclaren are the slowest team on the grid currently.

          1. @todfod My thanks for correcting me. My statement was correct for that particular day at the time I posted it, which was nearly at the end of that day’s testing, but I omitted to check previous days. My apologies for any hurt feelings.
            When I was looking at the video of the MCL32 it seemed to me the ride height at the rear of the car was higher than it should have been. If it was then that might be one excuse for the poor lap times, and I think it did get a mention today.
            I think part of Sauber’s reasoning in going for the 2016 engine was to give themselves an advantage going into the early rounds of this season, so you could well be right with McLaren suffering the ignominy of finishing behind Sauber.

      2. @rocketpanda
        Having their own team didn’t help much last time either.

        1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
          7th March 2017, 17:20

          Yeah… I know. Dunno why but I’ve always had a soft spot for Honda, ever since the BAR days really. I’d love to see them do well but I think that might be a while off.

        2. Although the brawn car was actually the car Honda designed…. So, if they hadn’t pulled the plug when they did, if their put was anywhere close to the Mercedes one, they would have been champions.

          1. If their PU….. **

    5. I’m wondering whether some of these “new engines” are actually ones used earlier in the pre-season testing, but having the electronics or such like replaced, and that when a fault developed Honda simply replaced the entire power unit rather than to hold up the car testing with trying to diagnose what went wrong.
      So far Vandoorne has done 72 laps and had a best time of 1:22.5, so there are signs of improvement. Really, this is where Honda should have been at this time last week.
      I don’t like to say it, but this lap time of 1:22.5 makes one suspect there is less power from this 1.6 litre hybrid engine than Honda’s competitors current season spec hybrid engine systems produce.

      1. @drycrust, there have been a few hints that Honda did refit used engines back into the car during the first test, suggesting that the engine changes in the first test probably were indeed done so they could take the engine back for analysis (and probably as a precautionary measure given that the issues with the fuel tank seem to have caused low oil pressures), before putting it back in if the diagnostic tests showed that it was OK to do so.

      2. @drycrust about that last part, there’s an article on AMUS in German talking about how their current unit is producing power at the same level of their very flawed 2015 unit.

        1. @mattds If that claim is true, then heads should roll at Honda. One of the most basic aspects of fixing things is to not end up with no improvement.

    6. BREAKING Boullier officially denied the split. Mclaren to Mercedes Engines for 2018.

      1. Move along, people… Nothing to see here.

    7. So looks like Honda are in deeper trouble as engine consultant Gilles Simon is set to leave. Simon formerly worked on Ferrari engines that Michael Schumacher drove. It is sad, I guess Mclaren is all set to play catch up season again this year and we will not see how competitive Vandoorne is. One of the things I was looking forward to this year. :(

      Also I am pretty sure if Honda don’t keep Mclaren 4th or above this season they will be parting ways for the next. And then Honda starts their own team ?? Thoughts ?

      1. I can’t see them starting their own team. It hasn’t worked out particularly well teaming with an extremely experienced F1 outfit, so I can’t see them ploughing millions more in to a failed project.

        I think they’ll quietly leave and continue to work on other motor racing projects that they’re a lot more comfortable with, ie. MotoGP.

        1. @ecwdanselby
          Hmm true, Honda investing more into something they are not strong in seems unlikely, maybe they will try supplying the engine to another team, if Mclaren backs out. I am looking at Sauber.

          1. I can’t see them wanting to move to a team with less money and resources, either. Honestly, McLaren were the best fit. Had a previous relationship, weren’t in the ultimate spotlight of being at the front of the grid, lots of resources… If it hasn’t worked with McLaren, it won’t work with Sauber. And no one else would be crazy enough to give them a chance.

            Honestly, i’m still surprised everyone thought the partnership would go well. Honda’s last run in F1 was absolutely abysmal. I think people remember the Brawn car ‘being a Honda’, forgetting there was no Honda engine in the back of it!

    8. Two different cultures at play here.
      McLaren want to start performing and winning races, immediately.
      Honda wants to have a good engine that performs, eventually.

      And then again, if Honda fails and fails at it, they will just pull out leaving Mclaren with a large void within the chassis.

      1. To be fair, the lost weight in a Honda pullout should keep the power to weight Ratio about even :D
        And not having an Engine should make for a dope cokebottle and tight packeging

    9. In the picture at the top, is it just me, or is the rear wing asymmetric? The left side appears to be almost touching the left-rear tyre, but the right side has what appears to be a ~6-inch gap to the right-rear tyre.

      1. Parallex error. It is symetrical.

        1. I’ll take your word for it, I’m not going to doubt someone with ‘eye’ in their name :-) @blik

      2. The picture is fine. It’s only there to show the other teams what the rear of a McLaren looks like :)

        1. ExcitedAbout17
          7th March 2017, 21:17

          And if you look carefully, you’ll see the blue flag just in front of it ;)

    10. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs… my favorite team for ages and now I’m – lord have mercy – cheering for Ferrari and Red Bull, my favorite teams to hate over the past couple decades. It’s a mad mad world I tell you.

      1. I can identify with this, although I don’t actually ‘hate’ any of the teams. I just prefer to see certain teams do better than others.

      2. Agree. I cannot believe that after the whole 2010 to 2013 era of hating Red Bull, I’m actually going to be cheering for their drivers this season.

    11. It seems that the problems Honda are suffering are basically the same problems that they had when they were last in F1 from 2000-2008, That been that they want there engine’s designed & built by there own people for there pride as a company as well as the pride of Japan.

      It was the same last time, They didn’t want outside help, They had there own way of doing things & didn’t want to change that. They used to have a constantly rotating door of staff coming through there engine design department as they believed in pushing people through the ranks, Getting them experience at the highest levels under the highest levels of pressure & then moving them into another department (Usually the road car division) so that the next guy could be brought through.

      One of the best things that happened to the American Sportscar/Indycar program is that HPD is run out of America with little interference from Japan & this allows them to do things in a different, More Western way which really helps them identify problems & fix them as quickly as possible, By been willing to work with & listen to those involved in whatever program is having the problems who may have a good idea on potential fixes.
      The Honda Indycar program was in trouble a few years ago, Down on power & lacking downforce in the aero-kit. Yet they pretty quickly figured out where mistakes were made & were able to fix them which allowed there teams to move forward & you often saw Graham Rahal mixing it up towards the front once the fixes were applied.

    12. It is really worrying. Their best time is 2.5 seconds off the pace like last year except that this year competition looks closer. They look like backmarkers even more than last year pre-season.

      With a flood of efforts and money they’ll eventually come 5th overall but I predict a much tougher midfield (Haas will be strong in the first races and Renault is making gains). Quite a sad state of affairs!

      1. 5th! You have an awful lot of faith in them. I’m predicting 9th overall in the WCC for Mclaren.

        1. @todfod I want to believe that with millions injected as well as with two drivers like Alonso and Vandoorne they’ll be able to ultimately (like in the last 6 races) take fifth from Haas. I may be wrong, we’ll see :)

    13. If things turn out as they appear to be going now I feel sorry for Fernando. It was always going to be a gamble for him going to McLaren but I think it’s failed. He should have stayed at Ferrari.

      If there are no signs of McLaren being close to the rest after 3 or maybe 4 races I really think they should cut their losses and seek a new engine supplier for next year.

      1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
        7th March 2017, 21:28

        Hugely frustrating and I don’t know why Fernando didn’t move heaven and earth to score that Mercedes seat. I’m afraid he will never win another WDC

      2. Why feel sorry for Fernando? Its his choice. He has 2 championships and will go down as one of the greats. He’ll be fine

      3. I think it’s good for Fernando that they are experiencing so many problems early on. He has more time to start talking to Mercedes and work on landing himself a 2018 drive.

    14. The five-year Williams-BMW relationship, from 2000-2005, promised so much, but soon fell apart, and it ended up hurting Williams very badly. It is beginning to look as if the McLaren-Honda relationship is going the same way.

      I can’t see Honda enduring more than another year of this. Nor indeed McLaren. But where McLaren might go to find a race-winning engine is far from clear. Their recent record has seen sponsors leave and income shrink. If engineers start to leave, the writing really will be on the wall.

      1. Diffence is BMW didnt let Williams down, thats why it hurt Williams.

      2. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Williams situation, with best power unit on the grid, with Mclaren’s situation (hands down the worst power unit that has even entered F1).

        Williams were sad BMW left… Mclaren .. will actually be relieved.

    15. One thing is for sure, the torture is set to continue for a while yet.

      Any hint of a split will most likely see the development stopped, McLaren can’t afford that.

      Their only real option is to see this through. Honda has made some forward steps since they came back, but they’ve taken one step back with this season’s fundamental redesign. If this engine’s concept is sound, we might see some quick gains. If it’s not a sound concept, we’ll be wincing at another painful season for McLaren and their drivers.

    16. I feel bad for Honda – the engines are ridiculously complex and they are up against the big three engine builders with vastly more knowledge and experience. How is a newbie supposed to compete with them? Simplify the engines so BMW, VW and others have a fighting chance.

      Who wants to watch a race when half of the field are using old engines, Renault the exception, with little or no chance of winning a championship?

      Those with the power need to step in and cut Honda some slack in some way and quick! Maybe allow them more engines, at least in the short term.

      It is estimated there were 50 million less British viewers last year and some of that is surely due to McLaren’s misfortune.

      Let’s hope the next 3 days of testing go well, Honda shows steady progress during the season and McLaren stays with them. It’s the only chance McLaren have of winning a WCC.

      1. Honda is only the largest engine maker in the known universe.

        They make great engines, just that their processes are ill suited to F1. It is a process that highly unfavouts Japan work culture.

        1. It doesn’t matter if Honda are the biggest engine maker in the universe – F1 engines are the most complex in the universe. No wonder Audi and BMW don’t want anything to do with it!

    17. I think there are a few fundamental mistakes that both sides have committed:

      Honda: 1) They seem to have miscalculated the effort required for these new engines (proof: starting 3 years late)
      2) They have been inward looking instead of accepting outward help (proof: copying Mercedes layout after 2 years and now parting ways with Simon

      Mclaren: 1) Forced Honda to supply only to one team severely curtailing Honda’s data collection
      2) Prioritized size-zero chassis and forced the sub-optimal engine layout on Honda

      Overall, I would lay the blame as 75% Honda, 25% Mclaren.

      1. Pretty much agree. I think it was Mclaren’s short sightedness with the size zero approach that really put them in the 2015 soup, as well as the selfish and immature decision to not supply another team with an engine that has limited Honda’s knowledge.

        Honda has more than just a few items to be blamed for. Sure, they miscalculated their effort, but they also do not have processes in place to quickly identify and work on solutions (as seen by their cluelessness in figuring out problems and just rolling the dice by hoping they don’t have problems in Melbourne) . They seem to have an absolutely ridiculous approach to QA testing. It’s like they never even tested (or thought) about the G forces in these cars which flawed their oil tank shape design.

        It’s almost like they weren’t paying attention to when Lauda said the reason Mercedes was great in 2014 itself was because they tested the engine with the chassis on the dyno. (I hope hasegawa sees this post now and implements it).
        All signs at Honda just point to amateurish. Amateurish in their approach, amateurish in their processes, amateurish in their problem solving, amateurish in their learning and amateurish in delivery.

        I’d put it down to 80% Honda’s fault and 20% Mclaren.

        1. Were Honda to supply another team, they will have 4 engines that are not running, instead of 2.

    18. Alonso could call it a day before Australia comes around.

    19. To those folks recommending McLaren build their own F1 engines, where do you suppose the $0.5 billion will come from for this engine development program? McLaren doesn’t even build engines for their road cars, but they’re supposed to target F1 on their first engine development program? Come on, let’s think first.

    20. Also it should be noted, standards in F1 are super competitive.

      In F1 if your engine makes 95% of leading engine performance your engine is considered a massive failure.

    21. In my opinion, as long as there is no intention from another manufacturer to enter F1 as an engine supplier, McLaren has no other choice than to stick with Honda. I don’t know the financial situation of them, but with all those sponsors departing at those rates and splitting with Honda I ‘m not sure for how many years they ‘ll retain a healthy financial status that will allow funding a frontrunning campaign. No doubt it’s painful seeing such an illustrious team to struggle like that, but ditching Honda may have much worse long-term implications.

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