F1’s teams and drivers may be packing their bags for the summer break, but there will be no such factory shutdown at Honda. Unlike the teams, the sport’s engine manufacturers are not subject to the mandatory, two-week ‘shutdown’ that must be served during the big gap in the race calendar between Hungary and Belgium. That is because the manufacturers are already reined-in by the ‘token’ development system, and Honda is duly preparing a big upgrade for Spa.
“The engine improves day after day,” the Japanese marque’s Yasuhisa Arai is quoted by Tuttosport, “and we are able to give more power already in Belgium and Monza — two circuits where that is very important.”
Honda has, however, denied reports suggesting the Spa upgrade will amount to up to 50 horse power. “We hope to gain 15 horse power from the changes,” an unnamed engineer told Italy’s Omnicorse. “A small step in the long chase of Mercedes. Before the end of the season we also hope to take advantage of the other four tokens that will remain. We are aware that we are behind the competition, but we are working like crazy to try to recover,” the source added.
And so given McLaren-Honda’s current performance and reliability deficit, there will be no factory shutdown at the Honda facilities in Milton Keynes (UK) and Tochigi (Japan). “No holiday for us,” confirmed Arai, “unless something unexpected happens in the factory. We will continue to work hard.”
It is believed F1’s other struggling engine supplier, Renault, will also continue to work throughout the ‘summer break’. Former F1 driver Stefan Johansson would not criticise Honda and Renault for doing so, as he said the current rules in F1 make it hard for them to catch up.
“If you don’t get a car right from the moment the season starts, you’re almost buggered the whole year,” the Swede, a former Ferrari and McLaren driver, said. And he warned that even when Honda dominated with McLaren in the Senna-Prost era, the Japanese marque worked hard in F1 for several years before that. “The early days were no walk in the park,” said Johansson on his blog. “I know that very well as I drove the first car they entered in 1983 with Spirit and the scenario was not that much different than it is today.”