Honda releases first image of F1 2015 engine, no driver announcement due at Suzuka

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Honda has released the first image of its 2015 Formula 1 power unit ahead of its home grand prix at Suzuka this weekend.

The Japanese manufacturer confirmed last year that it would be returning to the sport after six years away as an engine supplier with McLaren, rekindling the famed McLaren-Honda partnership of the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Although details since then have been drip-fed through, Honda has today released the first image of the power unit it has produced to race next season, and confirmed that more will be revealed across the course of this weekend’s race at Suzuka.

The firm’s head of motorsport, Yasuhisa Arai, confirmed that operations are now up and running at the engine powerplant in England, which works in tandem with the base in Japan.

“Working toward Honda’s F1 participation starting in the 2015 season, development of the power unit is entering its prime phase at our research and development facility in Sakura where we transferred our automobile motorsports development earlier this year,” he said.

“In addition to conducting simulations, we have moved onto the next stage where we conduct full-fledged bench tests of the engine while connecting the turbocharger and energy recovery systems. In the meantime, our racing operation base in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, has become fully operational.

“At this time, we are unveiling an image of our power unit that is under development. The whole team is concentrating on this development, getting ready for the forthcoming start of F1 participation in six months. Please stay tuned for further updates.”

Arai confirmed to British broadcaster Sky that, contrary to speculation, Honda is not looking to make any announcement regarding McLaren’s driver line-up at Suzuka this weekend.

“We are constantly talking about which drivers we would like to see and whilst McLaren is here in Japan it is only natural that we organize some meetings with McLaren, but I don’t think we will be discussing the topic of drivers given that nothing is decided,” he said.

Honda’s return and promise of exclusivity at McLaren for 2015 is proving to be a big point of interest for many in Formula 1 as the driver market begins to fall into place. Both of McLaren’s current drivers – Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen – are out of contract at the end of this season, sparking rumors that Fernando Alonso could be set to walk away from Ferrari one year early and return to the British team.

McLaren is yet to confirm when it will first test a car using the Honda power unit, but it could be as early as the final 2014 test in Abu Dhabi following the final grand prix of the season.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”