Formula 1: Honda & Renault Engines Working Hard To Catch Up

Ferrari and Mercedes are leading the pack, but Renault and Honda are pushing to close the gap.

Bertrand Langlois, AFP, via Getty Images

The war over whose Formula One engine reigns supreme is mainly being fought between Ferrari and Mercedes this season, with Honda and to a lesser extent Renault mostly doomed to play catch-up for the rest of the year. While only so much progress can be made by the end of the season, neither of the trailing engine manufacturers have any plans to relent on their engine development, and intend to introduce at least two upgrades each before the season's end in Abu Dhabi. That's likely music to the ears of teams such as Red Bull and McLaren.

Honda confirmed earlier this month that their engine team will remain at DEFCON 1 for the remainder of the season, and that they have as many as three more upgrades planned for 2017. At the start of the season, the Honda engine had severe vibration problems, which had gone undetected in the single-cylinder testbed on the dyno. Yusuke Hasegawa stated in an interview with Motorsport that single-cylinder tests have been abandoned, and that full-scale V-6 engines will instead be used to test upgrades in the hopes of catching any problems that would not be replicable on small scale tests.

Renault is still marching the path they envisioned for themselves, which involves continuous, incremental upgrades throughout 2017, followed by a watershed upgrade to start 2018. Their next update is due for the upcoming Belgian Grand Prix, according to the Renault engine program's technical director, RĂ©mi Taffin, who spoke of his plans for the remainder of 2017 in an interview with GPUpdate

He promises "new software and hardware updates" for both Belgium and the later Italian Grand Prix, which Taffin expects to be the best environment in which to compare the Renault engine to its competitors, though he doesn't rule out more upgrades beyond those scheduled for Belgium and italy. "We are looking at Monza as a benchmark as it could provide a clear picture of the ranking of the engines," he said to GPUpdate, "after Monza, we have more races and more things in the pipeline, the next two months will be important for the 2017 season outcome."