Honda ‘very relieved’ by McLaren’s first points

Fernando Alonso on his way to ninth

McLaren’s first points of the 2017 Formula 1 season in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been met with relief by Honda’s F1 project leader Yusuke Hasegawa.

The relationship between McLaren and Honda has become increasingly strained in recent weeks, with the team frustrated by poor engine reliability and performance.

But the Baku weekend eased some of the pressure as the team got both cars to the finish for the first time in 2017, with Alonso taking advantage of a chaotic race to take ninth with Stoffel Vandoorne coming home in 12th.

Honda also believes its upgraded ‘spec 3’ engine delivered more than two or three tenths of a second worth of performance in Baku, matching data predicted by its dynos back at base at Sakura.

When asked about the result, Honda chief Hasegawa said: “I’m very relieved that we could get points.

“The drivers made a very good job in a race of survival and we are very pleased about that.

“It’s very important (to get two cars to the finish).

“We didn’t have a big concern (regarding reliability), even if we were introducing a new engine and MGU-H.

“I’m very pleased we can show some development on reliability and because of that we can get points, which is very good.”

But Hasegawa conceded Honda still has a long way to go to close the gap to its rivals.

“It’s very positive, but just with one race, I couldn’t say we are very confident,” he said.

“From a performance point of view, just 13 cars finished, so it’s fair to say we’re not very fast.

“The gain (from the update) is not big enough to catch up the top runners but it is good progress.

“McLaren are not very excited because it’s not a huge upgrade to catch up the top runners but of course they are pleased.

“It’s important we can show them we have some progress, although we didn’t achieve the complete target of our goal (to match rivals).”

Honda brought one ‘spec 3’ engine to Baku, running it on Alonso’s car on Friday before removing it to check for damage following a gearbox failure.

The Japanese manufacturer believes the unit has emerged unscathed, but further checks will be made at Sakura this week.

Hasegawa said he hopes to have two ‘spec 3’ units ready to run for the next race in Austria, though he is unsure if Honda will have enough time to manufacture spares.

“We had a gearbox failure and we had some over-revs,” said Hasegawa.

“We didn’t see any issues, but we will check the engine in Sakura again.

“It should be alright so we expect to introduce spec 3 for both engines.

“Even if we don’t have a spare, there is no option – we need to run two ‘spec 3’ engines (in Austria).”

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