Precise figures are not known, but after the test runs in Barcelona and the season air show in Melbourne it is clear that Honda has more than great difficulties.
The Japanese are clearly behind the three competitors Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault in terms of both engine performance and reliability. This now raises speculation that 2018 might have a special Honda rule that would allow the Japanese to close the gap.
Background: When the FIA decided a revised engine rule in April 2016, among other things, it was stated as a goal that all power units should be at approximately one level. At that time there was talk of a maximum 0,3-second difference on the Barcelona reference line. An uncertain number, but even from a much larger frame Honda would probably still be clear at the moment.
After three seasonal races, i.e. already after the race in Bahrain in mid-April, the FIA wants to compare the relative performance of the engines. That means it’s all about the pure power of the drive. The chassis doesn’t matter in the bill. Now, of course, the question is what will happen if the difference between the best and the weakest power unit is actually greater than expected.
Regulation 2018: Time is pressing…
“Before we do this, we must first look at how we judge the engines”, Explains race director Charlie Whiting. Interestingly, there is no defined limit. Therefore, the assessment of whether or not an engine is too weak is the sole discretion of the FIA. But how do we proceed in theory if the Honda drive is actually classified as inferior?
In this case the FIA would hand over the topic to the strategy group. It should then consider what measures can be taken to bring Honda 2018 to the rest of the field. The proposal for this’Honda rule’would then go down the usual route. It should first be approved by the strategy group itself, then by the Formula One Commission and finally by the World Motorsport Council.
Therefore, it is no coincidence that the engines will be assessed in mid-April. The next meeting of the Strategy Group will take place on April 25th and is therefore already crucial, because April 30th is already the deadline for the 2018er regulation. Thus, a corresponding change in the rules at the next meeting of the Strategy Group and Formula One Commission would already have to be considered.
How could Honda be introduced?
But what would such a “Honda rule” look like? Charlie Whiting also knows that this is a “tricky” question. He therefore promises, first of all, that all engines will now be assessed as planned. Everything else has to wait. In any case, new McLaren CEO Zak Brown says that it would be “good for the sport” if Honda could catch up faster.
Since this season, engine development has been completely free for all manufacturers, the current token rule has been abolished. Despite this, Honda’s lag over the winter seems to have increased rather than decreased. Already last year Mercedes introduced the proposal to match the performance of the aggregates over a different amount of gasoline flow.
One can be curious which idea is now on the table for 2018. The meeting of the engine manufacturers in Paris on Friday will also deal with other issues. The main focus is on the drive regulation from the Formula-1-season 2021. And I’m sure you won’t want to wait that long with Honda until you’re finally competitive.