M cLaren-Honda has made a significant step. The cars reach their destination more often and they are in midfield. The Q2 in training is mandatory. On some stretches it is also possible to climb into Q3 on your own. In the race, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are close to the top ten. Substitute Stoffel Vandoorne got the first point in Bahrain. Alonso and Button missed 10th place in China by 11 and 16 seconds respectively.
According to McLaren, the chassis is already in the top division. The only thing missing is power. Honda has split its race to catch up in two steps. Reliability first, then performance. The stability is worlds better, but the Japanese six-cylinder are still not bulletproof. The MGU-K drive broke near Button in Bahrain. Metal chips got into the engine via the oil and caused a total write-off there. Like Alonso, Button already drives with the second drive unit. Alonso lost his engine in the crash in Melbourne.
Honda wants to copy Mercedes trick
McLaren is now desperately waiting for the second step. The car cannot compensate for the time lost on the straights in the corners to such an extent that Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso or HaasF1 could be brought to their knees in a direct battle. But at least it is enough to stay well ahead of Sauber, Renault and Manor. Despite DRS and slipstream, the McLaren-Honda in Shanghai were 11 km /h slower than the fastest on the long straight.
Honda wants to take the first step towards more power at the Canadian GP. It is a preliminary step to what Mercedes has been doing since the beginning and from which the Brixworth engine still benefits. A kind of pre-ignition in the area of the spark plug through clever distribution of the mixture in the combustion chamber. Renault is also going this way and will show up at the Canadian GP with its own offshoot.
In the long term, however, Honda has to change its engine concept. The Japanese have now understood that they have scored their own goal by placing the turbine and compressor in the V of the six-cylinder. Although this saves space, Honda restricts the geometry of the intake system. And in the end that costs more efficiency and power than it helps aerodynamicists thanks to its compactness. The bitter pill: The new engine won't be ready until 2017.