Honda will take on more leadership in its partnership with Toro Rosso following its difficult years with McLaren, according to its head of the Formula 1 project Yusuke Hasegawa.
McLaren announced in September that it would be ending the Honda partnership prematurely in order to become a Renault customer in 2018, with the Japanese manufacturer then switching to supply Toro Rosso. Looking ahead to working with Toro Rosso during the off-season, Hasegawa says the first challenge is getting the power unit installed properly in the 2018 car, with work so far showing Honda to be able to use the experience of the past three years to take on more responsibility in the new partnership.
“The installation is the biggest job for us, to get the engine to fit to the chassis,” Hasegawa told the official Honda Racing website. “We need to make many modifications, which is a big job, especially in this limited amount of time. Honda and Toro Rosso – from both sides – are doing a very good job.
“We’ve been the ones making the majority of requests so far, but it’s fair to say this will be a more equal partnership than it was with McLaren in terms of leadership. And that’s not just because of the size of the team. Obviously Honda as a company is huge but we had little recent F1 experience – so from that point of view McLaren was still leading us. That won’t be the same with Toro Rosso.
“We are working quickly to swap teams. We have to prepare things before February, so it will be a very busy winter. Development is ongoing on the power unit. It will remain the same power unit concept from this year, so we are able to use the current one as the starting point.”
Following the final race as McLaren-Honda, Hasegawa (at left, above, with Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost) says a fresh start will also help Honda gain even more experience for the future.
“A new challenge and making new relationships with people is always exciting. From an experience point of view, for this era of Honda, it will be the first time we have changed team and we’ll get a better understanding of what a normal situation is.
“We only know things as the McLaren-Honda way, but this will be another opportunity to expand our understanding and experience of a different way of working.
“I think we needed the change. From a technical point of view it’s good for us to know more about other things, like new cooling situations or how the top speed of a different car design is affected by drag. It is very important to understand what the standard is.
“Toro Rosso is also a very good team and they are very open with us. Compared to their position – in terms of size and resources – they are actually very competitive. I don’t know how the rest of the paddock looks at Toro Rosso but we’ve had many meetings with them and they are technically very professional.”