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Honda gives McLaren boost with ‘Spec 3’ power unit upgrade for Austria

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McLaren has been given a boost ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix after Honda confirmed it would be bringing its updated ‘Spec 3’ Formula 1 power unit to the race following a successful test in Baku.

McLaren has struggled for form throughout the 2017 season, scoring its first points of the year at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks ago thanks to a race of attrition.

A lack of performance and reliability from the Honda power unit has been the root of McLaren’s struggles, causing the relationship between the two marques to near breaking point.

Honda had planned to debut its updated power unit last month in Canada, but could only complete an initial test in Baku with Fernando Alonso during Friday practice.

After a successful test, Honda confirmed on Monday that it would be giving both Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne the ‘Spec 3’ power unit for the Austria weekend, acting as a boost to McLaren’s chances.

“At the previous round in Azerbaijan, we were able to bank our first points of the year and I think it brought some brightness into our team,” Honda’s head of F1 Yusuke Hasegawa said.

“We also tested the updated PU, the Spec 3, with Fernando on Friday and we were able to confirm some progress in terms of the power output.

“We have proceeded with the mapping back at the factory utilizing the data we collected, and we are going to bring the Spec 3 for both drivers this weekend.

“I think we have some improvements in our competitiveness and I am looking forward to seeing our performance in Austria.”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier is hopeful that the Spec 3 upgrade can help the team to keep up the momentum gained in recent weeks, starting at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday.

“After the excitement and incident of Azerbaijan, I hope that Austria will once again deliver a thrilling race for Formula 1,” Boullier said.

“The circuit itself seems to produce good, close racing, and its configuration should certainly suit our car better than the high speeds and long straights of both Montreal, Baku and the forthcoming race at Silverstone.

“In fact, we had one of our strongest showings in Austria last year, when Jenson was third in a rain-affected qualifying session, and went on to finish a very competitive sixth.

“There’s been no let-up in our development push all season, and, while the result in Azerbaijan was nothing to truly celebrate, it was a sign that we are working well and able to capitalize whenever an opportunity presents itself.

“With a number of improvements planned for the Austrian weekend, not least the proposed new Spec 3 power unit upgrade from Honda, I’m hopeful that we’ll be in a position to get amid the other midfield runners and take a useful step forwards.”

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.