Honda’s Formula 1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe says it is difficult to judge the Japanese power unit against Renault’s performance level given the spread in team performance.
Renault and Honda both introduced power unit upgrades at the Canadian Grand Prix, while Ferrari also ran an update as part of the first major developments of the season. With Red Bull expected to make a decision over whether it will switch to Honda from Renault in the near future, the relative performance levels between the two manufacturers after introducing their new specifications took on added importance.
While four Renault-powered cars made up the top eight positions, the updated Honda power unit outqualified the two McLarens and Tanabe says the spread across Red Bull, Renault and McLaren makes it tricky to estimate how Honda stacks up against the French manufacturer.
“It’s a little bit difficult to analyze or evaluate the power unit performance on the track,” Tanabe told RACER. “For example, Renault supplies many teams and there is a big difference between them. I don’t know if the Renault power unit supplies the same output on all cars, but if that is true that there are six cars with the same power unit output, then there is a very big difference between them. So that’s hard to understand and hard to evaluate.”
With Brendon Hartley challenging for a place in Q3 on such a power-sensitive track but teammate Pierre Gasly suffering a reliability issue ahead of qualifying, Tanabe says there were encouraging signs from the updated engine but work still to be done.
“We are generally happy with our result in practice and in qualifying. Then we had the additional failure and changed the power unit, but we learned a lot.”
Gasly took a new power unit ahead of the race in Canada — picking up a grid penalty as a result — that will ensure he does not need to take a penalty at his home grand prix in France this weekend.