Yasuhisa Arai has admitted that Honda underestimated the challenge of returning to Formula 1 as an engine manufacturer, after a troubled first half of the 2015 season.
After an unsuccessful attempt at running a race team, Honda pulled out of Formula 1 at the end of 2008 season - a move that coincided with the advent of the global economic recession. However, the introduction of a new eco-friendly engine formula in 2014 pulled the Japanese automobile giant back to the top echelon of motorsport, in a downsided role of an engine supplier to McLaren.
While designing complex V6 turbo engines - assisted by ERS - was never going to be easy, Arai says he didn’t expect the hill to be this steep.
“The current technology is much more sophisticated and it is tough to make a good racing car. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but perhaps we didn’t imagine that it would be this hard,’’ Arai was quoted in Honda’s mid-season review.
“I certainly didn’t imagine technology wise what we would be facing, but I have complete confidence in the direction we have taken with our power unit. We needed to create something radical in order to beat the top teams, and that is our ultimate goal – to beat the best.”
Arai labelled Alonso’s fifth place result at the Hungarian Grand Prix as a turning point of the season and believes Honda’s reliability problems are now behind.
He signalled a shift in focus to performance upgrades, with first of seven engine tokens expected to be used when F1 season resumes at Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps Circuit.
“I am confident that our reliability problems are now behind us which means we can turn our attention to increasing power. After the summer shutdown our plan is to apply a new spec engine using some of our remaining seven tokens,’’ he said.
“Not all of our upgrades will be in place for the Belgium Grand Prix; some parts will be applied for Spa and the rest during the weeks that follow. Our plan is to keep improving race-by-race for the remainder of the season.”