After Honda’s struggles in the pre-season, McLaren chief Zak Brown is drawing encouragement from Renault who have some that “impressive gains” can be made during the season.
Although Renault were dropped by Red Bull in 2015, the Milton Keynes squad re-signed with the French manufacturer and ran TAG Heuer branded engines in 2016.
Red Bull went from winning no races, which they blamed entirely on Renault, to being the only team aside from Mercedes to win a grand prix last season.
It is an encouraging tale for McLaren, who find themselves in the midst of an engine crisis.
Although the Woking team and their supplier, Honda, began this year predicting vast improvements, it looks if they have instead taken a step backwards.
“I think the degree of issues that we had in Spain were definitely not what we anticipated,” Brown told Crash.net.
“We knew, as Hasegawa-San [Honda’s F1 chief] said, with the kind of re-design of the engine that they had taken some risks, and with risk comes risk, so testing wasn’t pleasant.
“We’re working very hard on it. I think if anyone thinks we are standing still they’d be incorrect in their thinking. We’re in Sakura often, Eric [Boullier] has been there on a weekly basis.
“These things happen, it’s a tough sport and the Mercedes and the Ferrari and the Renault have a huge headstart on Honda.
“They took some risk in that they re-designed the engine this year and didn’t come out of the gate as strong as we can, but it is what it is and now we just need to work very hard to improve it.”
He added: “I think Renault obviously had some big issues a couple of years ago and they made some impressive gains during the season, so it can be done and in our instance it needs to be done.”
And although McLaren-Honda have made the headlines for all the wrong reasons this year, Brown is adamant that the team is as movitated as ever before.
“It’s not difficult to keep everyone motivated,” he said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised – maybe surprised is the wrong word – very happy to see how the team has reacted.”