E do you remember the test drives a year ago? McLaren-Honda managed 1,978 kilometers on 8 test days. Honda burned five engines. The McLaren spent most of the time in the garage. A year later, the Honda V6 turbo is in a Toro Rosso, and McLaren is now driving with Renault power. Even though the onset of winter in Barcelona only allowed 3 days of regular test operation in the first week of testing and the conditions were not ideal, there was already a winner. And that was called Honda.
Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley covered 1,508 kilometers in the Toro Rosso Honda. Almost as much as McLaren 2017 in twice as much time. There was not a problem with the drive during the trial run of the new partners. The Honda six-cylinder ran and ran and ran. As if there had never been a series of defects in the past three years.
But why did the Japanese suddenly turn the corner? Honda was actually on the right track at the end of 2016. But then three things happened. Before the 2017 season, Honda replaced half of the team of technicians, wanted to reach for the stars with a new engine concept and was forced by McLaren to make some modifications, which in retrospect turned out to be fatal. For example, a compressor that is too large and an engine control that has put too much thermal stress on the engine.
STR13 drives 322 laps in three days
At Toro Rosso, Honda has a free hand. The priority over the winter was to ensure reliability. That is why Honda built the current engine on the foundation of the previous year's engine. And has also been accepting external expertise for nine months. It's no longer a secret that Ilmor helps the Japanese with the combustion process.
In addition, McLaren's special requests were said goodbye. With the success that Toro Rosso set the distance record of the first week of testing with 322 laps. Just ahead of Mercedes with 306 laps and Ferrari with 298 laps. Incidentally, McLaren with a Renault engine is in seventh place with 260 laps.
The Honda V6 has also increased its power moderately. The big boost should come with the first expansion stage. At Red Bull, you expect Honda to drive on a par with Renault. For Toro Rosso, the compact motor from the Sakura development center turned out to be a blessing. “That made integration into the chassis easier. If we had to switch from Honda to Renault, it would have been more difficult, ”reveals technical director JamesKey. In other words: Renault's drive unit is bigger and heavier.
Toro Rosso is now a works team
Honda not only comes with engines free of charge, but also a development grant. Toro Rosso is now practically a factory team. For the first time since joining Formula 1 in 2006. Team boss Franz Tost is pleased: “We have the engine exclusively. This is a great opportunity for a team for us. 'Key adds:' It is also a great responsibility. '
After the many changes of engine partners in the last four years, the engineers have already had practice converting the Cars. The Honda solution was ready for decision in July. In the design office in Faenza, for example, one could think fundamentally. The Honda V6 turbo was known to have a similar architecture to the Mercedes engine. The compressor and turbine are separate, the MGU-H sits on a shaft in between.
From September onwards, things became clear. After a two-day crash course with Honda engineers, the rear of the previously designed chassis was adapted to the new engine and a new transmission was built. 'We already had engine decisions later and therefore more difficult tasks,' smiles Key. The Englishman would describe the end product, the new Toro Rosso STR13, as follows: “An evolution at the front, completely new at the back.”
Intercultural technology exchange
Red Bull's junior team has to contact the getting used to the new partner. The distance to Sakura is greater than to Viry-Chatillon. The language barrier bigger. Perhaps it helps that English is the second language for both the Italians at Toro Rosso and the Japanese. In order to better empathize with the Japanese culture, Toro Rosso took lessons on how to best work with a large Japanese corporation. “I am convinced that Honda has the capacity and the knowledge to develop the engine so that we can get where we want to go,” says Tost. And where is that? “The three top teams are in their own league. From 4th place there is an open fight. Our goal must be to land as far up front as possible in this large midfield. ”