Honda will not be looking to employ anyone from outside the Honda organisation to help with their Formula One engine development.
McLaren struggled with the Honda power unit last season suffering from poor reliability and performance issues, despite their winning record when working together in previous years.
Both were heavily criticised last season for not looking outwards, they refused to hire engineers and specialists from other teams instead the production, testing and upgrading of the Honda power unit was all down to personnel Honda themselves had put in place ahead of the 2015 season.
This approach placed them on the backfoot against their opposition, all of who had already had an entire year racing the new specification engines as well as developing them and fixing all the kinks.
This approach placed them on the backfoot almost immediately and gave them a mountain to climb that was never going to be achievable in the limited amount time. All of who their rivals had already had an entire year racing the new specification engines as well as developing them and fixing all the kinks, something Honda would have to do as the season went on. Had they looked to recruit personnel from other established teams Honda may have had a head start.
Speaking to Nikkei Asian Review Honda Motorsport boss, Yasuhisa Arai admitted Honda struggled to cope with a number of issues it faced last season but he believes now the team has a handle on what needs to be done.
“Up until the Spanish Grand Prix in May, it was like playing whack-a-mole,
“As soon as we resolved one problem, another popped up. Though we don’t disclose the number of people involved in our F1 team, about half of them are new to the field.
“The biggest challenge involved technologies for the system to recycle heat energy and convert it into electricity for use to assist motors. At the summer Belgian and Italian Grand Prix events, called ‘power circuits’ because they involve long straight runs, we recognised we could not catch up with other teams.
“Even if we increased the power output of our engine, it would lose some 160 horsepower on straightaways due to the shortage of heat energy. We needed to carry out a complete review of the basic hardware design, but we couldn’t do that during the season.
“In the second half of the season, we tried other approaches to improve our performance as much as possible. But we had a tough time. Honda faced the same problems that other teams did after F1 rules were changed in 2014.”
McLaren had pushed Honda to look elsewhere for its staff in a bid to seek out engineers and designers from rival teams but Honda refused.
“We thoroughly discuss problems [with McLaren] until we see eye to eye,” Arai explained. “The talks are neither cosy nor confrontational. Sometime around last summer, they asked if we had sufficient [development] resources and wanted to know why we were doing things exclusively on our own. They also asked us to use outside personnel, which from their perspective is natural given the high job mobility in Europe.
“But we explained that Honda has a different philosophy. It’s important to nurture manpower. It isn’t acceptable to us to have an outside engineer stay for just three months or half a year.”
Arai is confident Honda will not see a repeat of its 2015 problems this year.
“We’re keen to meet everyone’s expectations and reach the podium as soon as possible. We will resolve the technological problems we failed to address in 2015 and will head into the opening race with confidence.”
Whilst Honda is extremely successful in other motorsports and has been successful in Formula One while they spend their time chasing their tails and fixing issues the rest of the field are upgrading their engines and creating new parts. You can’t help but feel 2016 will be another season stuck towards the back.