Category Archives: Honda

Formula One: Throwback Thursday – Red Bull Racing (don’t) split from Renault

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If you’ve caught more than 10 minutes F1 coverage or spent anytime on popular F1 news aggregator sites over the last few weeks you would be forgiven for thinking the Mclaren Honda divorce was complete. Based on all confirmed sources this is not the case.

F1 media, as with any media, has a tendency towards sensationalism. A controversial headline will attract readership.  I have to admit, I’m not adverse to the occasional sensationalist headline here on JWGP.

So, whilst the F1 world awaits formal confirmation from both Mclaren and Honda around future plans, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the last “SENSATIONAL” Team and power unit supplier fall out. When with no official word from either Red Bull Racing or Renault, after 18 months of continuous headlines around a fallout, their split was announced by the media. Except it wasn’t. Two seasons later the partnership is still alive. Yes it has been modified, but the fact remains Red Bull Racing and Renault are partners.  Below is a screen grab of just a few of the credible outlets that “confirmed” the news.

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So while we wait for official news from Mclaren and Honda about the future of their partnership, one fact to bare in mind;

As per FIA sporting regulations, Honda and Mercedes have already confirmed power unit supply plans to the FIA for 2018 (see story with verified sources here). Within this confirmation, Mercedes will supply the same teams they are in 2017, Honda will supply Mclaren and Sauber.

In retrospect Looking back at the “confirmed” Red Bull Racing Renault split, the story ensured continual press coverage for a team performing well below expectations over a 12 month period. This coverage was arguably greater than that which Mercedes received whilst fighting for the championship. A masterstroke in marketing by a true marketeer Dietrich Mateschitz. In November last year, Mclaren replaced Ron Dennis with marketing guru Zak Brown.

How many newspapers are giving midweek coverage to Mercedes win on Sunday?

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Formula One: No Mercedes power for McLaren in 2018

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Away from incredible on track performances this season, recent Formula One news has been increasingly fixated by the prospect of ‘divorce’ between Honda and McLaren, with a number of respected outlets and leading pundits suggesting the separation is already all but finalised.

Whilst frustrations around the on track performance of the McLaren Honda partnership are plainly visible for all to see, with senior representatives from McLaren doing little to calm stories, one key factor appears to have been forgotten. The FIA Sporting Regulations.

Within the FIA Formula One World Championship Sporting Regulations, all power unit manufacturers are required to submit a list of teams they will supply in the following season by May 15th.  Under this regulation both Honda and Mercedes have already informed the FIA of the teams which will be using their power units for 2018

No power unit may be used in a given Championship season unless the Power Unit Manufacturer supplying such power unit accepts and adheres to the following conditions.

Each of the Power Unit Manufacturers of an homologated power unit must :

i)  provide the FIA, before 15 May (or such other date as agreed in writing between all the Power Unit Manufacturers and the FIA) of the season preceding that in which such power units are to be supplied, with the list of teams (clearly identifying the appointed “works/factory” team, if any) to which a supply agreement has been concluded for the given Championship season ;

ii)  if called upon to do so by the FIA before 1 June (or such other date as agreed in writing between all the Power Unit Manufacturers and the FIA) of the season preceding that in which such power units were to be supplied:

T = 111-A/B-C

–  A = Total number of teams (including “works/factory” teams) having a supply agreement concluded for the given Championship season with a New Power Unit Manufacturer.

–  B = Total number of manufacturers of homologated Power Units for the given Championship season.

–  C = Total number of New Power Unit Manufacturers for the given Championship season.

provided that if the result contains a fraction then the fraction shall count as a full team (e.g. 11 teams divided by 4 manufacturers = 2.75, each manufacturer must, if called upon to do so by the FIA, supply at least 3 teams).”

Appendix 9 – FIA Formula One World Championship Sporting Regulations. 

Earlier today, confirmation was sought from both Mercedes and Honda as to the contents of the lists provided to the FIA in accordance with this regulation.

Honda stated their list submitted to the FIA documents Power Unit supply intentions for both Mclaren and Sauber. Mercedes confirmed their submission to the FIA references three teams, Force India, Williams, and the factory Mercedes team.

No provision is made within the Sporting Regulations around deviation from this commitment. With both Honda and Mercedes having stated intentions around 2018 it seems highly unlikely any change is planned or possible without the consent of all teams participating in the championship.

Formula One: Sauber Honda Partnership CONFIRMED

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Earlier this morning, the Sauber F1 team confirmed a new partnership with Honda set to commence from 2018.  This Swiss-Japanese partnership will involve extensive strategic and technological realignment and creates a news basis for the team moving forward. Following the change in ownership of the Swiss based team, switching to Honda Power for 2018 demonstrates the team’s desire to return to the front through exploring all opportunities available to them.

Speaking on the new partnership Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO and Team Principal commented

“It is a great honor for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons. Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda. We have set another milestone with this new engine era, which we await with huge excitement and of course we are looking for new opportunities. We very much look forward to our partnership with Honda, which sets the course for a successful future – from a strategic as well as from a technological perspective. We thank Honda for making this great partnership happen.”

Katsuhide Moriyama, Chief Officer, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd:

“In addition to the partnership with McLaren which began in 2015, Honda will begin supplying power units to Sauber as a customer team starting from next year. This will be a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities. In order to leverage the benefits of supplying to two teams to the maximum extent, we will strengthen the systems and capabilities of both of our two development operations, namely HRD Sakura and the operation in Milton Keynes. We will continue our challenges so that our fans will enjoy seeing a Honda with dominant strength as soon as possible.”

Further details around the new partnership will be made available in due course.

Follow this link to check out the 2017 Sauber F1 Team Merchandise Collection from Errea Sport.

Formula One: Zak Brown’s strategic masterstroke?

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McLaren Honda’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will compete in the 101st running of the Indy 500 this week came at the perfect time for both the team and driver. After a more than challenging start to the 2017 season the team were in dire need of some positive press coverage. The move towards Indy, initialed by Zak Brown (Team Principle) has achieved exactly that.

There are a plethora of reasons as to why this move will be a positive for McLaren Honda moving forward, this article will seek to explore these from driver, commercial, and team perspective.

Driver: Fernando Alonso’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of the 2017 F1 season. Mclaren Honda’s failure to provide Alonso will a car capable of challenging for regular points let alone podiums or wins has been seen by many as a waste of Alonso’s talent. Should Fernando seek to remain in Formula One beyond his current agreement McLaren Honda will have their work cut out to convince him they can deliver a car that will allow him to challenge for a 3rd world championship. Zak Brown and the team realise this, and as such have begun to explore other ‘benefits’ they can bring to the table that other teams may struggle to offer. Running at the Indy 500 is one such benefit. With Honda power supplying half the grid in Indycar, slotting Alonso into a front running team was not a challenge. Realistically only McLaren could offer an active works F1 driver this opportunity.

Will this alone be enough to convince Alonso to stay? Beyond money, which at this point in his career may not be an incentive,  what else could they offer him? Running in LMP1 at Le Mans for the foreseeable future would prove very tough for McLaren to offer to Alonso. With only Porsche and Toyota capable of challenging for a win, it is doubtful a manufacturer drive would be open.

Through Zak Brown’s involvement in the Motorsport Network he has a connection to Formula E (Motorsport Network are minority shareholders of the championship) in addition McLaren supply ECU units. Could the team offer him a drive in Formula E alongside F1 from 2018 and beyond? Equally Zak Brown runs his own endurance racing team, could this be used to entice Alonso to events such as the Daytona 24hrs.

If McLaren can find Alonso success in other categories could they convince him to remain with the F1 team whilst they rebuild? Or could it show him there is more to life than Formula One.

Of course this assumes Alonso would perform well in other categories. The flip side of this strategy would be if Alonso struggles at the Indy500 or other events the team ‘allow’ him to compete in, he will devalue his own stock. He may make himself less appealing not only to F1 teams but also to other championships. In running at Indy Alonso risks limiting his own options when it comes to negotiating new a new agreement with McLaren.

Commercial: McLaren Honda’s recent struggle to retain and entice new partners has been well documented. With another underperforming season in prospect the team’s ability to ‘stop the rot’ is unlikely. Partners join Mclaren on the basis of front running exposure. They are not receiving this. Media coverage the team does receive is largely negative or not focused on racing.

Alonso running at the Indy 500 has created a good news story for the team, media coverage has been extensive and positive. This will continue into Indy. Through running a McLaren livery at the Indy 500 with all Mclaren’s partners gaining exposure, Mclaren will be able to make up for any exposure shortfall they may have faced as a result of disappointing performances in Formula One. Running at Indy will also give Mclaren’s partners additional exposure in the US, a key strategic market. This will help the team in future partner discussions.

The counter argument to this is that existing partners may realise they can achieve expansive coverage, greater than that of F1, simply by partnering with a top driver at a single event. Any partner / sponsor questioning a future with the team may be presented with a new strategic direction through this gimmick / project.

Team. There is no I in team. As fantastic as it is to see a current F1 driver taking part in the Indy 500, but Zak Brown and McLaren Honda management can’t for one second forget that they have fundamental problems to address within their own team. Issues that no PR stunt will overcome. There is talk that Mercedes have agreed to support to Honda in overcoming some of their Power Unit shortcomings, assuming the support leads to a turnaround in form, perhaps there is a light at the end of the Honda struggle. McLaren must focus on this. There is no point ploughing resources into keeping Fernando Alonso happy if the situation around overall team performance does not improve.

A side comment on the offer of Mercedes support. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which Mercedes will give Honda sufficient information to enable them to challenge for outright performance. Will a Honda Power unit developed with Mercedes not just become an incredibly expensive customer power unit which similar to a Williams or Force India will not be allowed to win?

Could McLaren Honda heading to the Indy 500 also be a comment to the FIA ahead of discussions around future power unit regulations? If they find success in Indycar will Honda start to camping for the same power unit to be used in F1? Are McLaren in sufficient a position of strength to threaten to switch to Indycar should future F1 power unit regulations not shift in their favour?

In conclusion. Zak Brown’s commercial minded approach to management of McLaren Honda and their issues is hugely refreshing for the fan and for sponsors. I look forward to seeing this same dynamic approach being taken to resolving team performance issues.

Credit to Tim Holmes for the concept Mclaren Indycar livery imagery supporting this article. Follow Tim on Twitter here

 

Formula One: Are Cosworth the solution to McLaren-Honda’s woes?

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On the eve of the 2017 F1 season McLaren Honda head into the third year of their partnership with little cause for optimism. Despite the FIA’s removal of the Power Unit development token system which previously limited manufacturers ability to modify / redesign technology, Honda solutions seemingly remain at odds with the F1 Hybrid era.

2017 pre-season testing saw Honda introduce an entirely new Power Unit, a fully integrated unit developed around the MCL32. In a bid to improve performance and resolve drivability issues which plagued the 2015 / 16 design, Honda engineers have taken inspiration from the solutions seen with their immediate competitors. This approach, in the short term at least, appears to have failed. McLaren have reported extensive issues with vibrations within the power unit limiting any ability to push for out right performance. Neither team nor engine manufacturer have been able to validate design concepts through pre-season testing and have minimal expectations around the team’s ability to complete a race distance let alone score points in the opening races of the 2017 season.

The situation is unsatisfactory for all parties involved.

In recent days it has emerged McLaren may have made preliminary enquiries towards Mercedes around future power unit supply, some media outlets going as far to suggest a mid season switch could be possible. The reality of this is highly unlikely, both from a commerical and technical perspective the strategy defies logic and any form of long term thinking.

McLaren maintain an ambition to compete for and win world championships. Using Williams Martini Racing as a prime example, despite access to the dominant power unit for the past three seasons, customer status with Mercedes limits their ability to challenge. This should not be the strategy McLaren seek or accept. It may resolve short term frustrations with partners, but it will not deliver world championships.

Instead McLaren may need to seek an alternative solution. It is understood Honda support the team and power unit development to the tune of $100 million per season. On the recommendation of McLaren, Honda could look to redirect this finance to a third party. The third party in question being Cosworth.

When the Hybrid F1 regulations were originally outlined in 2010, Cosworth, similar to Mercedes, dedicated significant resource to develop a new power unit for the sport. The intention had been for Volkswagen to badge the Cosworth power unit, however as the implementation of the new regulations grew nearer VW reneged on their F1 ambitions. This left Cosworth with a concept power unit 4 years in the making but no manufacturer budget to bring the power unit to the grid.

Cosworth have stated in previous years that with budget the power unit they developed could be on the grid within 6 months. They remain confident that the solutions they engineered would be competitive. In theory it would be possible for the Cosworth power unit to become the 2018 Honda F1 Power Unit. It is fair to say there would be a certain amount of pride to overcome between all parties involved, but ensuring future competitiveness may ease the short term pain.

To those who see the suggestion of Honda badged Cosworth Power Unit as the future of the McLaren Honda relationship as far fetched, take a look at the companies house registry for the list of directors at Cosworth. Top of this list you will find Mr Zak Brown, Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group.

Formula One: Are Sauber ahead of Mclaren?

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With the first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona drawing to a close to decipher the true pace of any team is almost impossible. All teams will be running their own development programs with differing approaches to fuel loads, tyre usage, aero set up, and engine mode settings. However after four days of testing some trends are beginning to emerge. One such trend could be concerning for Mclaren.

With the Sauber F1 team opting to run a 2016 Ferrari power unit through the 2017 season many expect the team to struggle for outright performance. When the decision was first announced the team explained this move would ensure stability in design and reliability allowing them to focus on the challenges of the changes in aerodynamic regulations for 2017. This approach appears to have paid off as through the first week of testing, only Mercedes and Ferrari have covered more KM’s in testing, 2,597KM  & 2,173KM  to Sauber’s 1,624KM. Mclaren on the other hand have struggled for reliability and not to mention outright pace. Power unit supplier Honda have new approach to the 2017 engine configuration to address inherent performance shortcomings, unfortunately this new design coupled with a new fuel and lubricant supplier, has lead to unreliability. In four days testing Mclaren have covered less than 1000KM.  As teams head into the second pre season test in which performance will should become a greater focus, Mclaren are unlikely to have collected sufficient baseline data to understand how best to extract maximum performance from the MCL32.

As stated in the first week of pre-season testing teams rarely focus on outright performance, however there will certain simulation runs in which drivers are allowed to push the car and situations in which softer compound tyres will be used.

@MsportXtra has complied a useful summary of fastest time set by each driver, total number of laps, and tyre used to set the fastest lap in tweet below:

Comparing the data between Sauber and Mclaren in this format adds further weight to the suggestion Mclaren could be set for a difficult start to the season. In every session in which Mclaren and Sauber completed their fastest laps on the same compound tyre, Sauber were able to post faster lap times. Further more in the session in which Mclaren worked with the Ultra soft compound, Sauber were faster using the super soft compound.

In reviewing the below table provided by Pirelli of the overall fastest times over the test, Mclaren again look to be in a precarious position.

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It is widely understood that Mclaren are not able to use all performance modes with the Honda power unit owing to concerns over reliability. Much of the teams issues can be attributed to this, but with such limited running the team may struggle to validate aerodynamic concepts in the design of the MCL32. After a challenging 2 seasons for the Woking based team could 2017 see the team fall further back down the grid?

The approach taken by Sauber of focusing on understanding the new aerodynamic regulations and minimising the impact of using a year old power unit appears to be paying off, with strong reliability the team should be targeting points early in the season which should also attract interest from new partners, something most teams in Formula One are actively seeking.

Formula One: Motorsport Network set to acquire stake in Mclaren?

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Over the past 12 months the Miami based business, Motorsport Network, has implemented a strategy of rapid expansion through acquisition across the motorsport industry. Motorsport Network, having installed Zak Brown as CEO following his departure from Just Marketing International, acquired the Haymarket Group, publishers of titles including  Autosport & F1 Racing, along side the purchase of Amalgam Models, Forix Stats, Motors TV. Most recently the group have purchased a shareholding in Formula E. At this point the strategy behind this rapid growth is unclear. The Motorsport Network is owned by Russian Billionaire Mike Zoi.

Since the announcement of Zak Brown’s appointment as Executive Director of Mclaren Technology Group, in effect succeeding Ron Dennis’s position within the group, there have been questions around Zak Brown’s plans to combine his position within the Motorsport Network and Mclaren. Zak Brown has commented combining the roles is manageable and his ultimate focus is with Mclaren.

As Formula One heads into the 2017 launch season, Mclaren have stolen the limelight in suggesting the team will introduce a new look for the team of which a new livery will form the basis. Given the recent growth through acquisition model applied by Motorsport Network and the senior management position held by Zak Brown in both organisations, can we expect Motorsport Network taking a shareholding in Mclaren to be the next logical development for both groups?

Despite his removal from a management function within the Mclaren Group, Ron Dennis retains a 25% shareholding in the business. As the F1 team appear keen to embark on a new chapter in the life of the team, going as far as to drop the MP4 naming convention implemented by Ron Dennis, it would not be a surprise to see the sale of his remaining shareholding in the team. With backing from Mike Zoi, Motorsport Network have the funds to takeover the shareholding and present Ron Dennis with a freedom to pursue new projects.

As the covers are removed from the MCL32 on February 24th it will almost be a surprise not to see Motorsport.com (Motorsport Network) branding on the car, the question will be the extent to which the network become involved with the team moving forward.

Credit to Tim Holmes for providing concept MCL32 livery design with the inclusion of Motorsport.com branding.

Thanks to the MsportXtra collective for support in connecting fellow motorsport enthusiasts.

Formula One: The Power of Teamwork

As the Mclaren Honda team head into the final race of the 2016 Formula One World Championship, Mobil One’s the grid caught up with a few key players within the team to discuss the importance of teamwork.

Race engineer Tom Stallard give a fantastic explanation around team mater rivalry, commenting it is the teams role to find the optimal set up to allow both drivers to perform at their peak, a performance advantage found by one driver or by one half of the garage in set up, leaving the other driver behind is not how to go racing. Rather Mclaren seek to give both drivers the best possible chance to perform.

Mclaren Honda will see a huge overhaul in the team dynamic over the winter break, with a new CEO joining the team in Zak Brown, and a revised driver line up. Finding success in these destabilising times will be a huge challenge for the team. For now their focus will be ending 2016 on a high and giving Jenson Button the sign off to his racing career that he deserves.

Formula One: Button’s Brazilian moments

The 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix will see Jenson Button make his 304th Formula One start. The Interlagos circuit has seen a number of historic F1 moments in recent years not least Jenson sealing the 2009 Formula One World Championship with Brawn GP.

Long range weather forecasts suggest mixed conditions for the weekend which should play into the hands of Jenson and the Mclaren Honda package. Jenson will be hoping for a strong result at the circuit which holds so many great memories.

Formula One: Past, Present & Future – Go-Kart Racing With McLaren-Honda

In an event for Mobil 1 and Esso, Mclaren Honda driver’s; Mika Häkkinen, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, and Stoffel Vandoorne recently got together at Fernando Alonso’s Go Karting circuit in Spain to pit the skills of Mclaren drivers from the last 3 decades against each other.

The event saw Mika, David, and Jenson return to Go Kart for the first time in years, giving them an opportunity to roll out some tried an tested excuses for performances (of lack there of) on track. Jenson who is very media event you see him in comes across more and more like a presenter enjoyed the challenge, but was keen to point out Fernando’s home advantage.

Who ultimately took the chequered flag? Check out the film above from Mobil One’s The Grid to find out for your self!

For more films from Mobil 1’s The Grid, head to thier You Tube Channel here