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.