Now, let me start of by saying I have nothing against Honda. They do a lot of things right and are obviously successful because of it. That being said, let’s address the elephant in the room: Honda’s race engines haven’t had the best of starts to 2017. The obvious exception is Indycar, but the Honda F1 and SuperGT engines have had a terrible start to the year.
Honda F1 first touted they got to Mercedes’ 2016 level of performance only to have tons of reliability issues plague their early season, which most likely led to the realization they will have this season as yet another development year. This resulted in the decision by McLaren and Honda to let Alonso race in a competitive car…in this year’s Indy 500.
Honda in SuperGT GT500 have had an extremely poor showing in recent years. When GTA and DTM decided to share rules packages in 2014, Honda decided to be Honda (when it comes to SuperGT) and go the long route to designing their car. When the DTM rules revolve around an FR layout, and you have any FR cars in your lineup (let’s forget about the HSV-whatchamacallit concept they ran from the years before) you already are at a disadvantage. Yet still they ran the NSX Concept GT with a MR Hybrid layout, the only Hybrid between the 6 cars. As you could imagine, the car sucked. They finally ditched the hybrid system last year and showed some promise, but constantly had all 5 cars finish at the back of the class.
This year with the new aero rules in effect for GT500, everybody made new cars and Honda dropped the “Concept” from the name. Things looked well in Honda’s favour and they ended up getting Pole at the season opener in Okayama. The goodness ended abruptly there: The race was delayed and eventually started under safety car because not one, not two, but THREE of the 5 NSX’s died on the grid and parade laps with electrical gremlins. The 4th NSX died a few laps into the race. While the Keihin NSX, eventually came back out on track and had no further issues, having 80% of your cars develop the SAME issue is absurd.
What is it about the F1 and SuperGT engines that are so terrible? I can understand Honda F1’s troubles since they were out of the game for years to come back with only 1 year of development, Honda in SuperGT never left the series. Two different series, two different engine packages (1.6L Turbo V6 vs 2.0L Turbo I4) resulting in similar finishes. Are the engines overly complex? Surely not, since all of their competitors have sorted out their engines and are mopping the floor with Honda.
I’m sure Honda in SuperGT will have a fix for Fuji and will probably win a race or two this year. However, Honda in F1 have a serious problem. They need to either supply another team like Sauber and reap the development time from that, or take the year off to work on their engines in the lab and in private on-track testing. Let McLaren and its driver’s take the remaining Mercedes allotment, gain some sponsors over the off season and come back hopefully stronger next year with a better engine.
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