Honda's F1 Engine Team Want YOU to Fix Their Engine
The available positions make sense, given what we know about the Honda engine.
The struggles of Honda's new Formula One endeavor have not flown under the radar. Since rejoining in 2015 as partners with McLaren to form McLaren-Honda F1 Team (aka McHonda), their continuous reliability and power issues have remained a near-constant storyline. Performance ambitions have fallen since the partnership's rocky start, with the Honda engine's unreliability apparent from day one—even though the McLaren-Honda team predicted podium finishes by the end of 2015, a prophecy that the team failed to fulfill. 2016 saw them making more modest promises, with aims to finish in the points on a regular basis. At this they succeeded, with a season-best finish of fifth. McLaren-Honda has since lowered their standards further, with a modest goal of finishing races without blowing up engines.
According to Motorsport.com, Honda's engine improvement was going swimmingly, with a one-cylinder model of the engine matching their goal of equaling the late-2016 spec Mercedes engine's power output. When the model was expanded to the full V-6 engine, however, problems began to show. Intense vibrations, especially at high RPM, caused serious setbacks during preseason testing. The McLaren drivers have had to upshift early to prevent the engine from shaking itself to pieces (it still makes a uniquely unpleasant sound with each upshift). Furthermore, Andrew Benson of BBC F1 claims that McLaren's simulations show the Honda engine's ERS system running out of juice two-thirds of the way down the long straights of Shanghai International Circuit, a problem that has plagued Honda since 2015.
What are they doing about it? Well, the team intends to fully redesign the engine's weak energy recovery system. Everything from the battery pack to the motor-generators used to save and redeploy the energy will likely receive a makeover. A new test engineer will be tasked with rigorous reliability testing on the new engine concepts—though some of Honda's problems stem from having too many ideas and too little testing. A dedicated set of engineers may yet be able to steer Honda in the right direction. Let's hold out hope that they succeed before Fernando Alonso retires, which may not be as soon as we thought.
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