Members of McLaren and Toro Rosso have both been speaking about the difficulties of working with the Honda engine and changing engine supplier.
McLaren will be using Renault engines from next year after three years of struggle with the Japanese manufacturer’s power units. Instead, the Honda engine will be used by the Toro Rosso team.
Eric Boullier has admitted McLaren had concerns about the performance of Honda at the start of the 2017 campaign, fearing another year of below-par results could have led to staff leaving the team. Boullier revealed in an interview with F1’s official website that the data from pre-season testing last year showed the team was heading backwards. He was worried if the team didn’t make improvements, people that were used to winning would start looking for work elsewhere on the grid.
The team certainly struggled in the first half of 2017, securing just one points finish in the opening 10 races. However, there were signs of progress as the year progressed, as the team finished with 30 points, with Fernando Alonso’s sixth place in Hungary the best result of the year.
At one point, it looked like Alonso wouldn’t be willing to continue with McLaren for 2018, criticising the Honda engine and the performance of his car in the early races. However, following confirmation that the team will be powered by Renault from next year, the two-time world champion elected to stay on.
Renault had a number of reliability concerns, particularly towards the end of the 2017 season, with Toro Rosso struggling in particular. The Italy-based outfit are now starting to prepare their car for the Honda power unit, but have admitted it hasn’t been straight forward so far. Speaking to Autosport, technical director James Key revealed just fitting the engine in the car is proving tricky. He admitted the team will need to do a lot of layout work just to get the engine in the car as it’s packaged very differently to the Renault. The car will require a new gear box, with a different layout and size to the one used by Toro Rosso in 2017.
Key insists Toro Rosso don’t want to have to make any major changes to their aero work just to fit the new engine in. With two relatively inexperienced drivers in the car for 2018, the team will have plenty of other work to make sure they’re ready for pre-season testing, so won’t want to waste too much time rearranging the inside of the car. All the changes for the Honda engine will happen under the skin according to Key, resulting in a difference approach to chassis design.
McLaren have also had to make some changes to their car design for the new engine. Boullier believes the confirmation of the Renault engine came around two weeks too late in the design process, but that the team have now recovered that time. With the first pre-season test a little over two months away, we’ll soon find out how both teams have adjusted to the changes.