Honda will be a stronger proposition in future thanks to the “huge pressure” it was put under by McLaren, according to the head of its Formula 1 project.
Next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the final race of the McLaren-Honda partnership before McLaren switches to Renault power and Honda supplies Toro Rosso in 2018. Reflecting on the past three years, Yusuke Hasegawa believes the experience of working with a team with expectations of racing at the front will benefit the engine manufacturer in the long term.
Asked how he sees the McLaren-Honda partnership, Hasegawa told RACER: “It’s a difficult question.
“We appreciate McLaren very much, we managed to learn many things and we felt supported by McLaren, but also we were under huge pressure from them. That was fair, and we also felt the pressure from the inside as well. So it was very tough, but it was the necessary environment for us to get stronger, but we need to be much stronger.”
And on the final race for the partnership in Abu Dhabi, Hasegawa added: “As an engineer I would like to finish the race reliably and with some points, to be able to maximize some performance, but of course from the management point of view I will feel sad.”
With Fernando Alonso having finished eighth in Brazil last weekend with what Hasegawa described as “an incredible drive”, the Honda F1 boss is hopeful of a similar performance from the team at the Yas Marina Circuit.
“Again we are expecting to score some points, and I think to be the fourth-fastest car is our target.
“Of course we don’t know the actual race performance until the lights go out, but from the Friday and Saturday practice results in Brazil we thought we were competitive with that middle pack of Williams, Force India and Renault. So we expected to score some points.
“Because we didn’t have the chance to run in free air we don’t know [if McLaren was the fourth quickest team], but then it was the same for Force India, so compared to Force India we don’t know. We were definitely quicker than Williams, so it could be that we had the fourth-quickest car.”