Honda Is Planning Three More Formula One Engine Upgrades in 2017

There's only one way for McLaren-Honda to catch its rivals—full speed ahead.

Andrej Isakovic, AFP, via Getty Images

The clock is ticking for McLaren-Honda. Its star driver, Fernando Alonso, is fed up with the team's lack of competitiveness and is looking for any way out of the most recent team to let him down. Alonso told his team of the improvements he would need to see for him to stay on board back in May and threatened to jump ship if his requirements were not met. He later moved the deadline up to September's Belgian Grand Prix, and we speculated that Honda would be incapable of providing another engine upgrade at that race weekend, let alone one good enough for Alonso to consider sticking around.

In an interview with Racer, however, Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa confirmed that a planned four-part upgrade plan for this year's engine has instead become a five, or six-part plan. "We will prepare another two steps, but it could be three," said Hasegawa, "Either way, we will keep going. There are also things to think about like tactics of how to manage some steps up and the introduction of new specifications. Of course we also need to avoid penalties as well, especially at certain tracks like Singapore."

He is also confident that the Honda engine has progressed faster than any other this year, but he was still unsure that their engine will be any match for the Renault, Ferrari, and Mercedes engines in 2017. "We are closing up the gap," he said, "but it is natural because we are the followers, so we should be."

One of the next upgrades is due shortly after racing resumes in Belgium, early in September, according to Autosport. As for what that upgrade entails, Honda is not yet sure. Hasegawa said they face the challenge of deciding which upgrades to develop and implement, and in which order. "We know the direction and we know some elements to achieve that performance, but we still have not concluded what element we have to introduce [...] everywhere, we're trying to find more horsepower," said Hasegawa to Autosport.

Honda needs to make its decision, soon, and get to work designing their next upgrade. If the "spec 4" isn't a silver bullet (which it probably won't be,) McLaren-Honda should mentally prepare itself to see Alonso driving ovals for 2018.