The current rules will prevent Honda from quickly closing the big gap to its engine rivals in F1. That is the view of Jo Ramirez, the retired long-time McLaren team coordinator who admitted the scale of the Anglo-Japanese collaboration's problems as they reunited in 2015 caught even him by surprise. "Honda didn't think it would be so hard," said the Mexican. "Nobody did."
Ramirez, 74, lamented that today's severe restrictions on testing but particularly against free engine development will mean any recovery for Honda will not be fast. "I think that if the rules were not what they are, Honda would already have a good engine," he told Spain's AS newspaper. "Or a much better engine."
McLaren-Honda finished ahead of only the backmarker Manor in 2015, meaning the once-great team is now haemorrhaging official prize income and private sponsorship. So what will happen as the collaboration enters its second season next year?
"It all depends on what happens with the rules," said Ramirez. "If these rumours are true that the freezing of the engines will change ... I don't know. The truth is that Honda has improved already but not enough. The gap started at 4.5 seconds and is now 1.5 or 2, but it is also true that the last seconds are the hardest to get."
Lead McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, however, has declared that he is confident the team and Honda can find a massive 2.5 seconds per lap over the winter. "I'll be honest and say that with the rules as they are," Ramirez commented, "that is not going to be possible." As for Alonso, Ramirez added: "He is one of the best, so hopefully he will win again soon because right now it is a waste of an incredible driver."
He admitted he is not a fan of the hybrid engine formula altogether, insisting that the stated ideal of enticing carmakers onto the grid has failed. "Look at what has happened," said Ramirez. "How will another manufacturer come in now when they see what happened with Renault and Honda? They are in F1 on Sunday only to sell cars on Monday." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing