Honda fears that its performance deficit to rivals might have increased in 2017 following a difficult start to pre-season testing in Barcelona.
After upping their ante last season, with visible improvements in both pace and reliability, Honda was expected to make major leapways in 2017 in order to bridge the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault.
However, Honda’s pre-season running was blighted with reliability issues, with McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne limited to just 425 laps across eight days of running - the lowest for any team on the grid.
Questions have also been raised about the performance of the new Honda power unit, with McLaren MCL32 looking unspectacular on track.
Honda’s F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has now admitted that the Japanese manufacturer’s rivals might have made a bigger step over the winter, possibly leaving it further back in the pecking order.
"Of course we also improved our engine performance level; however, it looks like the PU performance improvement of the others is better and higher than us. We may even be further back, so that is very disappointing,” Hasegawa told Racer.com.
"From the settings or a setting point of view we may have some things we can do in these two weeks. In the next two weeks we will try to find some ways of tuning the engine, and it can have better performance, definitely."
While playing catch up to rivals in the current engine formula has proved to be difficult for Honda, Hasegawa says he was surprised to see the manufacturer also go a step backward on the reliability front.
"No, not at all,” he said when asked if Honda had foreseen the problems. “Everything that has happened has not been seen on the dyno, I believe. No.
"Especially the day two issue and this week's day one issue, we didn't expect such a problem."
"Of course it is disappointing but to me it is good that we can find out the issues before Melbourne. Of course it is bad for testing and to disturb the running time."
"We knew the performance level but we didn't know the level of the other teams, so from a comparison point of view we are a little bit scared of the situation and it's too optimistic for us to expect a very good result in Melbourne.
“But from a trouble point of view, of course I didn't expect such a wide variety of problems that we suffered,” he added.
by Rachit Thukral