After three years of disappointment and stress, Honda are now starting to flex their muscles in terms of using their vast resources to improve their Formula 1 programme, what seemed like a strange decision to ditch Renault is proving to be a shrewd one by Toro Rosso bosses.
Honda are starting to show the capacity of their substantial resources, with the quest for reliability the key priority.
Instead of scrapping their problematic power unit concept and starting from scratch, Honda has persisted with their current engine philosophy, improving components on a race-by-race or need-to basis.
Pierre Gasly got the partnership off to a strong start with fourth place in Bahrain, but there have also been glitches such as turbo failure at the season opener in Melbourne.
However, the way Honda respond by addressing problems has been a revelation for the Red Bull-owned team as a fix was found and implemented and since then the issue has not arisen again.
Speaking to the official F1 site, Honda Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe explained the problem, “It was a hardware problem. We think we have cured the problem now – but we still haven’t run enough races.”
The last few years have taught Honda and their partners to be cautious when predicting resolutions to problems they face, “We have many areas that we need to work on to catch the other manufacturers. We are working hard. And we will keep working hard.”
“We are a new team. From the last race, we’re still learning a lot, technical things, also preparation at the track, how to work with the team efficiently. We’re still learning.”
“Concerning performance and reliability, we always need to compromise. If you push too hard on the performance, sometimes you can have reliability problems. We evaluate how much we can push on the performance, then we see the result in reliability. Then we try to find a compromise.”
“It’s not very easy to make big steps of improvement. Of course, we are planning to apply update items during the season. At the moment, we cannot tell you when they are coming.”
“There are many areas we need to improve the correlation. It’s not perfect enough. In some areas, we have good correlation. But in others, we need to improve,” added Tanabe.
It is clear that right now harmony prevails in the Toro Rosso Honda camp, as the two organisations work towards the same goal as one.
The same cannot be said of Honda’s fractious partnership with McLaren where cultures collided and what promised so much – after all, they enjoyed huge success in the eighties – but in the end the reunification delivered nothing, the organisations that teamed up in 2015 were vastly different from the ones of three decades ago.
Red Bull have shrewdly provided their junior team as a live testbed for the Honda power unit, a successful engine would provide the energy drinks outfit the excuse they need to finally rid themselves of Renault power – a partnership that has been on the brink of divorce on a couple of occasions.
If there is a company with the resources and determination to make a success of the project, it is Honda and by all accounts, their “second marriage” in this modern era might just have wings…