McLaren-Honda is having to look beyond the final five races of 2015. At Suzuka recently, the Anglo-Japanese collaboration looked set to unravel, amid Fernando Alonso's radio outbursts and Jenson Button's questionable commitment to the struggling team and F1.
But after Japan, McLaren re-signed Button, a chided Alonso's anger subsided and team supremo Ron Dennis even signed up a new sponsor. "I was in Tokyo for several days (before the grand prix)," Dennis is quoted by El Confidencial newspaper. "I think the time I spent there was very constructive and then over the (race) weekend there were discussions that were extremely constructive."
Amid those discussions, Dennis said he got the message that there is "no doubt" about Honda's commitment to F1, and its resolve to solve its problems. "At all levels of Honda, they know what the challenge of F1 is, and they know exactly where we are today."
Indeed, Honda's F1 chief Yasuhisa Arai has acknowledged that the big problem is the "ERS" - or energy recovery - components of the power unit. "In circuits with long straights, the extra power eventually ends and that means we lose about 160hp," the Japanese told Spain's El Pais newspaper.
"That loss is far greater than what we can gain from the combustion engine," he said. "But to solve it this year will be difficult because it requires a redesign, and we are already working on that for next season." Asked if the current rules give Honda enough 'tokens' to make a significant improvement for 2016, Arai insisted: "Yes. There will be no problem with that."
Alonso hopes so, as he is now admitting that the remaining quarter of the 2015 season - 'flying away' throughout Russia, the US, Brazil and Abu Dhabi - will be more of the same struggle. "It will be difficult to see much progress (this season)," he said. "The limitations we have now are very clear, and this requires some time during the winter to make the most progress."
"We will continue to use the remaining races to work on the setup for next year, have some aerodynamic improvements and get a little more experience with the engine," Alonso added. "Right now we have to be patient and understand that we cannot do much in the five remaining races. There is much room for improvement but many things have to change," he said. "I am optimistic. The first signs for next year look good, so let's wait and see." (GMM)
Circuit de Catalunya - Winter testing
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing
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