Toro Rosso-Honda will not rush to set goals for 2018 Formula 1 season
After the failed run with McLaren on its return to Formula 1, Honda says it will be cautious when setting goals for its run with Toro Rosso from 2018 onward. The Japanese manufacturer feels it was let down by the pressure created when it re-joined F1 with a brand like McLaren.
It doesn't want to repeat what happened with McLaren and wants to run on equal terms with Toro Rosso - by setting realistic goals and not rush into predictions, which also led Honda to becoming the center of a joke among fans.
“It was of course very challenging,” Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa-san. "Honda started very late compared to the other manufacturers, so it was a big disadvantage. While I think we are doing a very good job from a development point of view, from a competitiveness point of view, we are behind.
“I am still very proud of our job. We keep progressing, we never give up and we have never stopped our development. We have kept going at maximum speed for all three years. But this is a competition and from the outside it is obvious we haven’t been getting results, which is of course disappointing.
"We live with this, but during this situation I really appreciate the McLaren guys, and have to give a special mention to those at the circuit. Everybody is always focusing on getting out the maximum performance from the car and the PU. They never give up.
"Even when we had an engine failure, the mechanics were always trying to recover the situation and focus on getting the car back on track. They are very professional and always had a great attitude. It was a necessary challenge for us to take on.
"Although we showed some decent performance last year we knew it wasn’t good enough to break into the top three, so we needed to change the engine concept. There is no doubt that this was the right direction but we just couldn’t complete the package in time for the start of the 2017 season. That meant we had to solve many issues at the Grands Prix instead.
"But unless we tried those modifications there was no chance of going forward in the longer term. So that’s why we decided to change. I have no regrets in taking that decision. Of course we have been challenged from the outside by McLaren throughout, which is very good.
"We had so many experiences with them, so obviously from an organisation point of view - both technically and as people - we have all grown, there is no doubt. A new challenge and making new relationships with people is always exciting.
"From an experience point of view, for this era of Honda, it will be the first time we have changed team and we’ll get a better understanding of what a normal situation is. We only know things as the McLaren-Honda way, but this will be another opportunity to expand our understanding and experience of a different way of working.”
"I think we needed the change. From a technical point of view it’s good for us to know more about other things, like new cooling situations or how the top speed of a different car design is affected by drag. It is very important to understand what the standard is.
"Toro Rosso is also a very good team and they are very open with us. Compared to their position - in terms of size and resources - they are actually very competitive. I don’t know how the rest of the Paddock looks at Toro Rosso but we’ve had many meetings with them and they are technically very professional.
"The installation is the biggest job for us, to get the engine to fit to the chassis. We need to make many modifications, which is a big job, especially in this limited amount of time. Honda and Toro Rosso - from both sides - are doing a very good job.
"We’ve been the ones making the majority of requests so far, but it’s fair to say this will be a more equal partnership than it was with McLaren in terms of leadership. And that’s not just because of the size of the team.
"Obviously Honda as a company is huge but we had little recent F1 experience - so from that point of view McLaren was still leading us. That won’t be the same with Toro Rosso. We are working quickly to swap teams.
"We have to prepare things before February, so it will be a very busy winter. Development is ongoing on the power unit. It will remain the same power unit concept from this year, so we are able to use the current one as the starting point.
"That’s the biggest agenda we need to discuss. From a championship point of view, Franz Tost always said it is down to the drivers. So we have to provide Brendon and Pierre with the performance they need.
"Of course they are very good drivers but they are also rookies in F1 so it’s too early to say what we can target from a Constructors’ Championship point of view. People tell me we’ll have much less pressure at Toro Rosso but I don’t think that’s true. In my mind we simply need to prepare the best engine and nothing is going to slow that down."
While Honda is still running with McLaren in the post-season Abu Dhabi test, Toro Rosso is using the Renault for the last time, before they head into the winter to make the changes and have their first run together respectively in the February's pre-season testing.
The Honda PU has shown performance in glimpses in the 2017 season, but with the lack of reliability, it was always behind. With Renault also not upto the mark, it will be fascinating to see how the development battle shapes up in 2018.