According to McLaren race director Eric Boullier, the team would have won a race in 2016 if the Honda engine would have been competitive.
“If we had the best engine this year, we would have won races,” Boullier said.
“We know, the GPS traces [of corner speeds] tell us.”
You have to wonder if that is what Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes GPS would tell them too? It’s an interesting position and one that takes the focus off the chassis and squarely places it back on the power unit of Honda.
As we mentioned in our season review podcast, even when Honda did deliver the increase in power and performance in July, the car made improvements for sure but not the kind of gross gains many were hoping for. This led some to believe that the chassis wasn’t flattering the entire package either.
To Eric’s defense, it is a complete system and even if they had been given a Mercedes engine in July, it isn’t designed for the complete package.
“There is room for improvement everywhere with Honda,” he said.
“It also drives your chassis development. Everything is connected”.
Indeed it is and he would be better positioned to know if the Honda engine was still the anchor on their performance or not but I’m not sure some of the F1 pundits are as convinced that the chassis has no role to play in the lack of performance and that Honda should bear the brunt of the blame.
As I said, I’m not in a position to know but let’s look at Red Bull and Renault as an example. The team knew they had a power unit seriously lacking but when the upgrades came, Red Bull worked some magic with their chassis and beat Ferrari in the title chase. I would say they seemed to do a better job of making the immediate Renault engine gains into performance gains via superior chassis design but perhaps I’m not being fair here.
“It took Renault time [to make engine gains] and still today, they are not on top of the game.
“They started to develop this engine six years ago.”
There is certainly truth in the notion that Renault were at it far longer than Honda were but the Japanese company did have a full year, after announcing their return, to really focus on making the engine and during that year, they have a serious peek at McLaren’s supplier, Mercedes, for the entire season.
They had some luxury in that they could see what the teams were struggling with in the first season with the new power units and were not hampered by the token spend while under development.
I’m picking fly poop out of the pepper here but to me, McLaren’s Honda engine sounds the best on the grid and I still have a lot of faith in this brilliant team…and that’s coming from a Ferrari fan. I think they’ll eventually get there and Eric is right, teams can take 5-6 seasons to get it on song. Mercedes, Red Bull and Renault all took similar amounts of time to reach the top. Stable regulations were a large part of that but so were radical regulation changes in the case of Mercedes—it helps that they were a large part of forming those regulations though.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT