Formula 1’s new limit of three power units per season further protects the advantage held by Mercedes and Ferrari, according to Honda.
2017 saw drivers limited to using a maximum of four of each of the power unit components during the season, with any additional components carrying a grid penalty. Honda and Renault both suffered a number of penalties last year, and the new season sees the limits become even more challenging with only three of the internal combustion engine (ICE), turbocharger and MGU-H allowed and two of the MGU-K, energy store and control electronics.
Honda’s outgoing head of F1 project, Yusuke Hasegawa, believes the new restrictions are counterproductive as they could have an impact on performance as well as limiting the ability to improve during a season.
“It’s very tough,” Hasegawa said, speaking before confirmation he would leave his role ahead of 2018. “It’s not just for us – Renault had difficulties. I don’t think it’s reasonable. From a technical point of view, it’s too difficult.
“If we save the engine performance, it’s easy to achieve. If we use 2000rpm lower, of course we can finish [races], but there’s no point.”
When asked if the new limits protect the advantage currently enjoyed by Mercedes and Ferrari, Hasegawa added: “As a consequence, yes.
“We have discussed it many times. They strongly oppose it. With three engines, it means we only have two chances to introduce a new engine. We need to introduce a good engine at the start, but if we don’t we only have two chances to introduce a new engine.”
Hasegawa also warns that restricting the ability for a manufacturer to develop will make F1 less attractive to companies both within and outside the sport.
“Reducing cost is important, but F1 is a technical challenge – unless we can prove something better, there is no meaning to stay in F1.”
While Honda’s power unit was more reliable toward the end of 2017, Hasegawa admits the restrictions mean reliability has to be the primary focus for a manufacturer before addressing performance.
“We need to concentrate on reliability, to get an engine to do seven races. But we need to improve performance too. It’s good we have a baseline. We need to confirm the current engine is OK. As soon as we confirm that, we’ll do the next step.”