The good news is that Honda has a dedicated F1 motorsport boss in the form of Masashi Yamamoto. The confusing part for me is that this role didn’t exist until now. Honda said:
“just how important this project is to Honda, especially in its first year back supplying two teams on the grid”.
Honda initially had Yasuhisa Arai and then Yusuke Hasegawa, and even split the role of its F1 head across two people but three years with disappointing result teamed with McLaren found the team moving to Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
At the time, McLaren said there was simply a culture clash and I’m a surprised to see the comment “in its first year back supplying two teams”. They may not have been supplying two teams but surely their first season back in F1 was three years ago and one would think they would have had a dedicated person focused on F1 given the investment and challenge the sport represents.
Perhaps this is the kind of focus and dedication that McLaren found challenging to work with? If it took two teams to get a fully-dedicated person at Honda to solely focus on F1, perhaps I can see a little bit of McLaren’s frustration. Perhaps not.
Regardless, Honda has worked hard with Red Bull and Toro Ross to get ready for this season. Max Verstappen said:
“Well, everything they’ve promised is there. So, I’m happy about that.
“It’s been different the last few years.
“They are very open and honest. What they say, they deliver. That’s fair.”
It does sound like Honda is more focused, more dedicated and taking their new partnership very seriously. I said two years ago that I could see Honda leaving McLaren and joining Red Bull and if they did so, it could be the best move for everyone involved.
McLaren weren’t finding the harmony with Honda and that was surprising but I thought Red Bull would. So far, it seems they have and it gives Red Bull what McLaren wanted, a dedicated engine partner committed to F1. That’s huge as Mercedes and Ferrari declined to supply Red Bull.
If Red Bull and Toro Rosso make big gains with Honda this year and the former can equal last season’s performance, that will be a big win and will shine more light on McLaren’s failure to find a symbiotic relationship with an engine manufacturer. Honda’s dedicated F2 role can only help and possibly avoid the “car-by-committee” situation that has plagued Japanese F1 teams in the past.