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As we discussed on our recent podcasts, Honda will be returning to F1 with a power unit supply for McLaren in 2015-16. The deal is exclusive with McLaren for the first two years as Honda motorsport boss, Yasuhisa Arai, points out to Sky Sport F1:

“McLaren is our only customer. I don’t think about the future, because we want to concentrate on next season,” Arai said.

However, that could change in 2016:

“If teams want to use our engine or power unit, we can deliver after year 2016 but right now there are no plans.”

The company says that the engines will be maintained in a facility in Milton Keynes but the design is all Japan. I will be very intrigued to see if Honda push the envelope with the Mercedes-styled split turbo design now that the cat is out of the bag and with a Merc in the rear of a McLaren in 2014, Honda has 100% access to the tech in question in which to study and imitate.

That additional year, 2014, in the McLaren/Mercedes contract had to sting didn’t it? I am sure Mercedes would rather have not had their engine crawled over, measured and fondled by a main competitor for 2015.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • tim

    Yeah, it’s funny. Some people see this extra year out of F1 as a DISadvantage for Honda. I see it as a massive advantage, getting indirect access to see what Merc has done right, and getting to see the mistakes everyone else has made. Honda’s engineering resources are comparable to Mercedes’ resources. I’m certain they’ll make the most of this opportunity.

  • jeff

    It reminds me of both G. Hill/J. Clark in the initial DFV’s and Senna testing the Lambo units; the initial focus was on max peak power. During testing, both manufacturers received feedback stressing the reliability and drivability of the engines over max hp.

    So it goes here; although Merc does seem to have a peak power advantage, it seems the greater initial reliability, the fatter mid-RPM power band, smoother throttle pick-up, and more efficient harvesting/more frequent -K to -H transfer are the real advantages. Honda’s in the perfect position to observe what Merc got right/Renault/Ferrari got wrong.

    As the latter two continually improve ERS integration, it’ll be interesting seeing how Honda interprets the changes. The split-turbo everyone’s been talking about is indeed revolutionary IMO, but only as a cog in holistic design goals and approach that Renault/Ferrari missed, integrating the engine and “KERS” systems. It’d be cool for example seeing an integrated MGU-K/ES system which, as I read the tech regs, would be allowable; such a system would shorten the energy conversion path, take up less central chassis space, etc.

    Honda is an engineering company, despite its road cars becoming less appealing a la BMW; F1 entry will only enhance its image. One hopes they produce a competitive design, as the more engine providers the better.

    • I don’t think that Ferrari or Renault are in a worse position to learn from Mercedes than Honda. They’re probably all working on next years engine, trying to split the turbo…which apparently isn’t an easy feat. I’ve heard somewhere (can’t remember where) that Ferrari did the same, but stopped short of the extreme Mercedes solution of placing turbine and compressor on opposite ends of the engine. Either they didn’t see the potential (unlikely) or they simply couldn’t do it. One narrative has it that even the Mercedes engine unit didn’t believe it could be done at first and it was the F1 team that pushed them all the way.

      But I’m sure that Ferrari, Renault and Honda will put their focus on this solution. Meanwhile, Mercedes has the time to look for improvements on the engine elsewhere.

      Honda did have one massive advantage up to this season however, namely that as they are not yet part of F1, they weren’t bound by any testing restrictions. So their lump could run without limits on the actual track, not just the dyno. But now the other engine manufacturers should have lots of data as well from the actual races, so I don’t know how much of that advantage is still there. One thing Honda can of course do is to test all kinds of variations whereas Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes can only run their homologated engines.

      • Agreed, didn’t mean to infer Ferrari/Renault worse off, just that Honda would be learning from all, as will the other manufacturers.

        I’d read the same about Ferrari, putting the turbine further forward either in the middle of the V or on a 2nd shaft in line w/ the -K. However, pictures I’ve seen don’t bear this out, and the latter contravenes tech regs stipulating a single shaft.

        Honda’s greatest advantage is seeing the Mclaren’s packaging up close, as well observing now-common knowledge how critical -H and -K interaction is to overall system performance. Minimializing ES usage while maintaining ERS output whilst keeping the package drivable is where PU gains to be had.

        How the manufacturers will achieve this throughout ’14 and especially ’15, I’ve no idea. An engineering buddy showed me a hybrid generator/capacitor design for solar engineering commercial building; he cited shorter path lengths and more efficient electrical/mechanical energy conversion, hence my combined -K/ES idea. Of course, jack of all trades, master of none applies here as well.

        • compressor, not turbine.

  • Rapierman

    I wonder if Red Bull will be knocking on Honda’s door in 2016.

    • Tom Firth

      Can’t see it happening myself, Mclaren will be the works team and Red Bull won’t like being a customer.

  • Ben

    Thanks for posting a pic of that beast…I hope McLaren/Honda recycle that livery

    • Very unlikely. The cigarette box design is gone for good…then again, Lotus recycled the JPS design, so who knows. But given the effort Ferrari took to (un)hide the Marlborough Logo, I think it would be impossible anyway…

      • Chris

        Alter a few lines between the red and white and ta-daaa no more cigarette reference right Ferrari? I’d love to see the livery come back. I’d especially love to see a repeat of the last time Honda and McLaren got together. Ron has already done this before. He knows the drill and probably was a campaigning item used to put him back in charge. Smart move.

  • jiji the cat

    i’m sure Merc a ruing this extra year at McLaren, and Honda are rubbing their hands.

    If i was Tony Fernandez i would be chasing Honda.

  • Has anyone seen press about Honda deferring other customers to 2017?
    http://www.autoblog.com/2014/04/23/mclaren-exclusive-2017-f1-report/

    The article cites the Pitpass website, but I didn’t see any article there, and no other info on the web. An error perhaps.