Honda’s F1 Engineers Were Laughably Overconfident Going Into 2017 Season

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Honda has a reputation for putting reliable engines in its road cars, so some might have assumed it would be able to make significant gains before the 2017 Formula One World Championship began. Its engineers apparently also thought so, though the improvements they expected to see were too large.

Honda F1 technical chief Yusuke Hasegawa revealed Wednesday he and his team thought — with the engine token system scrapped — its power units could start the season with as much horsepower as Mercedes’ had at the end of 2016, according to Motorsport.com. That mountain simply was too high to climb, however.

For perspective, during qualifying for the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the fastest McLaren-Honda was more than 2 seconds per lap slower than the slowest Mercedes-AMG Petronas.

“As a matter of fact we were thinking (it was) too easy, and it was too difficult to achieve the new technology — that was my mistake,” Hasegawa told Motorsport.com.

Not only did Honda fail to achieve its desired power output to start 2017, its power units’ new designs lead to reliability issues that severely limited its testing time. Furthermore, by the time it identifed those problems, it was in over its head.

“What we achieved in mono-cylinder is at a very good (horsepower) level, but when we transfer exactly the same specification to the V-6 engine, it doesn’t work,” Hasegawa said. “We are very disappointed. But it was too late that we noticed that — at Christmas.”

Even though F1 engine suppliers are allowed more development freedom this year than in the past, it still seems Honda had set itself up for failure with its targets. Renault and Ferrari hadn’t been able to close the gap to Mercedes in the first three years of the hybrid era, so for Honda to think it could do so in one offseason seems almost laughable.

Thumbnail photo via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images

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