L&T Motorsport

New Look, Same Old Story for McLaren Honda

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

While Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari were dominating the first of the preseason Barcelona tests, many teams had other things on the agenda. Red Bull kept their cards close to their chests by only focusing on reliability. McLaren Honda on the other hand was a completely different story. The Woking squad had fallen on hard times ever since the hybrid era and their partnership with Honda began. In the two years that they have raced together, they have not finished a race in a position higher than 5th.

MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MCL32 on track during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

This season, the British marquee unveiled a radical black and orange livery while promising a change of fortune. However, the first preseason test at Barcelona saw them struggling with mechanical issues. By the second day of testing, they had already used their third engine, which too failed. On Day three and four of testing, the car ran a little more reliably but they still had to use a fifth engine. In the first test Honda had debuted a new engine layout which was adapted from the Mercedes design. But Alonso’s run was hampered by a problem with the design of the oil tank. The next day, Stoffel Vandoorne was also forced to cut short his run due to another engine problem. The third engine only lasted 29 laps before it died, after a new engine was fitted, the Belgian was able to continue for another 40 laps. In an interview with BBC, Yusuke Hasegawa said that they modified the package to make the engine lighter and the center of gravity lower. This would hopefully make the car easier to handle. Another change was made to the car, namely the internal combustion engine was changed to get more power.

 

Honda will hope to turn things around for the second test at Barcelona, before the season starts in less than 3 weeks time in Australia. Given the problems that had plagued them in the first 4-day test, Honda and McLaren have to work together and iron out the issues or time will run out, as will the patience of both Alonso and Vandoorne

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