Not even a week ago at McLaren’s launch of its new MCL32 chassis, hopes were high about Honda’s power unit being a step forward for the year.
But Monday saw an oil system issue hamper Fernando Alonso’s first day of running this year at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.
Things failed to improve on Tuesday for Stoffel Vandoorne’s first day with a full power unit change occurring today, and limiting the Belgian to the same number of laps – 29 – as his teammate, the two-time World Champion, completed on Monday. Following a change, Vandoorne completed 11 more laps for a total of 40 on the day.
It’s been a sincerely challenging start to say the least for both parties, who in their post-test release today explained today’s delay:
“After completing 29 laps, we lost power to the PU. Our priority was to minimize the loss of track time and continue with our testing program, so we took the decision to change it,” said Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer. “We know we had a mechanical issue and we will not be reusing the power unit for this test, but we’ll have to investigate fully to identify the cause.
“Stoffel was back out on track by late afternoon and we were able to recover our schedule.
“Of course, it was disappointing to encounter further problems today, but tonight we’ll carry on our hard work to make further progress for Fernando’s session tomorrow.”
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier added, “It’s a shame we weren’t able to maximize the track time today due to the issue with the power unit, but it was encouraging once again that the team pulled together to replace the PU quickly in order to enable us to return to the track at the end of the afternoon session.
“When you design a new car and power unit under new regulations, it’s possible that there will be issues that arise that you cannot foresee in pre-season development. Of course, it’s unfortunate, but the important thing is that we learn from them, and there is already a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes by Honda to identify the issues and rectify them as soon as possible.
“Testing is just that: the prove-out of new components prior to the start of the season. We’ll continue with our planned test program tomorrow with Fernando, and keep pushing to make the most of the day’s running.”
With the back-to-back days of issues, McLaren Honda lags well behind the other nine teams in terms of lap count. Each team except McLaren has over 100 laps banked between the two days while combined, McLaren has just 69 official laps thus far – just three more than one-race distance at the Spanish Grand Prix.