It was in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi, in his last interview of the year. "I was in Japan and all the powerful people from Honda would be there which was good because we have a problem and it's good that they realize this, even if it’s somewhat dramatic," said Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard demanded more, and a truly worthy engine.
Well, next season, according to our sources, he will have something similar to what he was calling for and the new Honda will have 223 horsepower more than that of 2015. Last year the combustion engine had about 70 horsepower less than that of Mercedes and also had to make up 163 horsepower from the energy recovery system (ERS) which could barely be released, unlike the other cars, on the straights for 33 seconds per lap.
In Sakura, the Honda factory in Japan, they have been working 24-hour shifts – and didn’t take Christmas holidays - to solve the problem and, in summarized and basic terms, they have increased turbo by sacrificing other parts of the power unit that have minimal impact and by relocating the ERS cooling system. This, according to their simulations, has allowed them to reach the 163 horsepower required. Between different systems on tracks like Spa or Monza, Alonso and Button had a deficit to other cars up to 230 horsepower. The ERS is composed of two motor generator units – the MGU-H, recovering energy from the exhaust and the MGU-K recovering energy from braking.
This system was not functioning fully but now Honda seem to have controlled the problem and now have the aerodynamic design of new chief engineer Peter Prodromou on-board focusing on more grip without excessive drag or air resistance in the F-1 car. This is their second year together and they must solve the problems as, for example, Ferrari did in a clear evolution from 2014 to 2015.
However Mercedes, which began work on these concepts two years ago, will continue to lead. And although Honda will improve, the rest will too, but we will see for ourselves from 21 February. Their objective is to be among the top five in Australia and from there improve. It won’t be easy.