Honda has denied talk that their second engine specification is an improvement due to upgrades or an ability to be run harder.
Mercedes calculated that they were losing three-tenths down the straights to the Honda-powered Red Bull cars at the French Grand Prix, and then two-and-a-half tenths at the Styrian Grand Prix.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner put that down to Mercedes’ “barn door” rear wing, though speculation in the media suggested that Honda had added more performance to their engines, which is allowed only if it comes about through a move to improve reliability.
Honda though has dismissed all of that talk as inaccurate.
“I’m very happy if it is true, but it’s not true,” said Honda F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe, when asked by reporters about an alleged 15 horsepower gain for their engine.
“Under current regulations, any performance update is not allowed to apply during the season. As a result, our second PU is the same as first PU in terms of specification and the performance.
“Under current PU regulations, we need to submit any changes [to the FIA].
“[You are] only allowed to change for reliability or cost reason or logistics, and then we need to submit very detailed [information] to the FIA first, and the FIA approve those changes.
“The FIA distributes all documents to the other PU manufacturers, so we need to have approval from the other PU manufacturers to change any single parts specification.
“Why we are doing such a very detailed investigation is that a long time ago some teams, they improved their performance by making a change to improve the reliability.
“So we are very careful to change the performance. It is not possible to improve the performance during the season. That is my answer to that suspicion.”
So rather than an actual improvement of the Honda engine, Tanabe feels that instead the knowledge of how to best use it has grown.
“We have been learning gradually how to use the PU, we improve our weakness, and then we push our strengths,” he explained.
“As a result, the base specification, the performance, is the same, but trackside performance I believe we have been improving.”
Mercedes has been considered the benchmark for power units throughout much of the V6 turbo-hybrid era which began back in 2014, but Tanabe does not agree with the current belief that Honda has now taken over as the leader in that department.
“We keep analysing our position, compared to the other PU manufacturers. This analysis includes the chassis performance as well, because if you have a good car, with less downforce, sometimes you see a good engine power performance. So, it’s a little bit difficult to judge,” he stated.
“The current result shows us that still, we are not number one. But as I said, we cannot improve the pure performance, like ICE performance. Then, we are working very hard on how to use the PU efficiently at the track. So, we want to use current hardware more efficiently with [the] team engineers.”