Honda play down reports of 'huge horsepower boost' for McLaren
But could it happen? Where do they need to improve? And just how far off the pace were McLaren in 2015?
By William Esler
Last Updated: 27/01/16 10:03am
Honda have cooled reports they are set to deliver a 'huge horsepower boost' for McLaren in 2016.
The story originated from Spanish tabloid newspaper AS, who reported on Sunday that Honda had found 223 extra horsepower over the winter.
According to the publication, the team are targeting fifth place on the grid for the season-opening Australian GP.
In a statement Honda told Sky Sports: "Recent media reports have suggested a huge horsepower boost for McLaren-Honda in 2016. These reports are unsubstantiated and merely speculative, and we ask fans and media alike to treat them as such."
Given that McLaren were thought to be between 70 and 150 horsepower down on Mercedes throughout 2015, that would certainly seem to be a huge leap forwards - and one that would potentially see them challenging at the front.
How far off the pace were McLaren-Honda?
Detailed analysis of the speed trap readings at the opening 10 Grands Prix of the 2015 season showed McLaren to be an average of 13.3kph off the pace. At the high-speed Silverstone the deficit was as big as 19.7kph, whereas around the twists of Monaco it was only 9.0kph, suggesting that the chassis of the MP4-30 was aerodynamically sound.
But it's lack of straightline speed remained a permanent feature throughout the year - for the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi the qualifying speed trap showed the McLaren pair to be around 18mph slower than Valtteri Bottas' Williams.
What was the issue and how can it be fixed?
"A lot of our problems come from deployment," Button told Sky Sports F1 in Abu Dhabi.
"We are not 28kph slower on the straights, it is because we are cutting off the deployment on the straights even in qualifying and it makes it look worse than it is and obviously it costs us a lot of lap time."
The AS report suggested that the deployment issue had been cured by a relocation of the ERS cooling system.
'In Sakura, the Honda factory in Japan, they have been working 24-hour shifts - and didn't take Christmas holidays - to solve the problem and, in summarized and basic terms, they have increased turbo by sacrificing other parts of the power unit that have minimal impact and by relocating the ERS cooling system,' the newspaper reported.
Certainly there have been question marks around the 'size zero' packaging that was announced at the car's launch. While the design provides aerodynamic gains, it also creates problems with cooling, much as Red Bull discovered during the opening tests with the hybrid power units in 2014.
Is 'size zero' an issue?
Another issue with packaging the power unit so tightly is that compromises have to be made. Paddock rumour suggests that engine components had to be shrunk to fit the engine design and these micro parts simply cannot perform the job of their full-scale counterparts.
Redesigning these parts would have necessitated major changes to the engine that Honda would have been unable to carry out under F1's token development system. How the bodywork around the rear of the McLaren MP4-31 looks in Barcelona could give some clue as to whether the engine has been packaged in a more conventional manner in 2016.
Will we see improvement in 2016?
All will be revealed when the cars roll out for the first pre-season test in Barcelona on February 22. The MP4-30's quickest time across eight days of running in Barcelona last year was 1:25.225 - two-and-a-half seconds slower than Mercedes' benchmark.
Allowing for an improvement from Mercedes as well, an improvement of around the 220 horsepower mark would certainly put McLaren amongst the frontrunners in 2016.
The first Barcelona test starts on Monday February 22 and the Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days of both Barcelona tests while Sky Sports News HQ will also deliver live updates from trackside.
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