Performance now taking precedence over reliability – Hasegawa

Honda’s power unit still remains at a fair distance from Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of outright performance but gradually, power is being dialed into the Japanese engine, with the future looking brighter at every race.

Honda’s return to the pinnacle of motor sport with McLaren in 2015 led to a dismal season, with massive under-performance on both the performance and reliability front.

The manufacturer addressed the latter in priority, but gradually this season the power has been turned on, now reaching a level which once again tests the engine’s ultimate reliability threshold as Spa and Monza demonstrated.

“At the winter tests, we were thinking our car performance was not bad to get points,” Honda boss Yusuke Hasegawa explained to Motorsport.com.

“So I decided to start the season with very marginal [performance] settings so reliability would be the first priority for us.

“But after the Chinese GP, where we finished 12th and 13th, and everybody finished the race, I understood that just finishing the race meant we wouldn’t get anything. So we had to take some risks.

“So from Russia we started to use higher ignition settings and higher performance settings, and it was directly related to some problems with the engines. But I understood we had to take some risks.

“That increased some issues unfortunately and also at Spa it was the same thing. We needed higher performance, which is why we introduced the new Spec 3 engine, but we didn’t have enough time to set up and tune and check. So that made us have so many issues over Spa/Monza. But it is what we needed to do.”

Hasegawa believes Honda’s potential for raw power has always been there, but huge reliability issues last season simply forbid its display.

“Last year it was very difficult to evaluate the progress because reliability was the biggest issue. And also they couldn’t score points consistently, so it was difficult to see their progress.

“But from a power unit point of view they were improving their performance. So from that point, the ratio of improvement wasn’t a big difference. I think we are proud to keep the same level of improvement from last year to this year.”

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