Alonso impressed by Honda’s “scientific approach”

2015 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso says he found Honda a very different proposition compared to working with other Formula One teams.

The two-time champion, who joined McLaren-Honda after five years at Ferrari, believes their methods are well-suited to the current generation of F1 rules.

“I saw a lot of talented people when I visited the facilities at Sakura,” said Alonso at a media event in Tokyo yesterday. “I saw a very different approach compared with other teams, with a very scientific approach, a very technological approach.”

“In this new Formula One with a lot of electronics, a lot of software, hardware, a lot of interactions, I think with Honda technology and the Japanese culture we can put a very nice work together.”

Team mate Jenson Button doubts the new car will be able to challenge for a podium finish on its debut next month. Alonso says they need to wait and see how the first races go before setting any targets for the rest of the year.

“We need to see how competitive we are first,” said Alonso. “I think we just did one test and we were not running with the full potential of the car, we’re just testing the first days of the car.”

“But I think once we have the full potential, once we are in the second or third race of the championship and we see how fast we are then we will put a target for this first year.”

However Alonso is not ruling out a first-year title bid at this stage. “We want to win the championship,” he said.

“We don’t know if it will be the first year, the second or third. Hopefully as soon as possible., But this is something that we want to achieve.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “Alonso impressed by Honda’s “scientific approach””

  1. First thing i thought of when i read the title was

    1. And yes, i know i got the brand wrong which may make my post sound racists… i do apologize for that, it is not intended, the punt of the joke is the scientific part :)

  2. As opposed to Ferrari’s abstract approach, Fernando?

    1. I think perhaps he is referring to Ferrari’s method of development – throw 20 new front wings at the car and hope one of them works and then make excuses when they don’t, followed by a “We are Ferrari, we cannot be in this situation, we must keep calm and react, blahblahblah”. Whereas Honda probably focus on getting it right the first time and maximising their resources.

      1. @sundarf1 to be fair though that approach was probably the best in the pre-test-ban era. If you have a track in the backyard why taking the risk of simulation models if you got the real thing to test. That’s why Ferrari suffered so much and was always outpaced in the dev race since the test ban, they had to change their approach and that takes a lot of time.

        1. @tmf42 – Or rather that Ferrari could get away with their inefficient model of development in the pre-testing-ban era with having better facilities (and using them more) than their competitors. The fact that they didn’t invest in more modern technology and develop their structure soon enough eventually backfired, like it always does, especially when you operate in such a complex and constantly changing environment as Formula 1.

          Generally, I’m still not convinced though that the textbook Japanese organizational culture is any better for an F1 team than what the British teams have had. The bureaucratic, conservative, slow process that suffocated all innovation didn’t work particularly well for Toyota, for example.

      2. Honda have hardly been successful in their last 20 or so years. I still can’t see where all the optimism comes from. I think if they finish in the mid field it has to be seen as a success for their first year back. They will throw as much money as the other big players and will do for a period of time, I hope they don’t withdraw again if they are not at the top. They have done so on too many occasions.

        1. I suppose it comes from other motosports like MotoGP.

        2. Er. … what about brawn?

    2. … compared to … other teams …

    3. petebaldwin (@)
      11th February 2015, 14:51

      @countrygent – That’s exactly what I was going to say! Surely a scientific approach to designing, building and improving such a complex power unit would be the least you would expect!

      What were Ferrari doing? Sending in “Toni the mechanic” to bolt some old scrapped Punto engines together!?

      1. Well, there’s a reason nothing ever worked with Ferrari’s upgrades! :)

  3. I’m not impressed by Honda’s scientific – whatever that might mean – approach. On the way to work today I was contemplating how is it possible in 21st century not to connect several threads of code to work in harmony. It’s not a rocket science and I don’t get it. I’m sure they will be atop of it soon but it’s kind of technical hiccup I cannot relate to Honda.

    1. I take it you’re not a software engineer? :)
      Like everything else in life, the more you dig the more complexity you discover. Writing complex systems with as many variables as I’d imagine an F1 car throws up is *not* easy. Getting a functional model working at all is probably a genuine challenge, let alone optimising for performance.

    2. So over 500 of the world’s best engineers are struggling to understand and design an effective PU, and you think that they are laughing about and ignoring their work? Their paid more than probably all of us in F1 Fanatic combined…each. I’d really like to see you having a go at designing and understanding a F1 PU.

    3. I’m not impressed

      You should. That’s the finest engineering, technology and software development you can find, hundreds of millions euros a year. No need to minimize the complexity of such kind of project just because you don’t understand it.

    4. To quote Rod Nelson in the article yesterday:

      It’s very easy to get local minima when we try to optimise something. You’re kind of looking at a ten-dimensional array or something and you’re trying to find that absolute optimum and you tend to kind of home in on what’s close to you so you try a little bit stiffer, a little bit softer, a little bit more camber or whatever.

      I’m guessing you’re not familiar with work like this. The effort required to solve this kind of problem is immense!

      1. I doubt that Mr. Nelson knows what he’s talking about: “ten-dimensional array or something”. Ok?! One dimensional array is a row of – for the sake of the argument – ten elements; two dimensional array with the same index gives you one hundreed elements; three dimensional array will give you 1000 elements… What on earth is 10 dimensional array? At the time of my study I used Fortran for calculations as it is known as programming language for matematicians, scientists end engineers. Professor told us that fortran can go up tu seven dimensions. However, we face a problem of perception, how do we perceive seventh dimension!? Some of you obviously can, I’m humbled guys, I really am… Maybe I’ve spent last 20 years in the cave and haven’t heard of 10th dimension. If that’s true I’m sure it would make Carl Sagan rise from the dead.
        Btw guys – engineering at finest laped the circuit of Jerez 10 seconds faster!

        1. It is teally not that hard to grasp, every feature of an object could be viewed as a value in a dimension. For example you can say a guy has a red shirt, blue jeans, long hair, he is 5’8″, and likes football. That is a five dimensional vector with 4 nominal and a numerical value. Using this 5 dimensions you could describe group of men. Adding new features increases the dimensionality of the parameter space. Local optimum would be like, there are three man in your direct area and you could one chose to be your best buddy. That man fits 3 of your five prefered values, ie. black shirt, blue jeans and likes F1. The global optimum would be form all of the men in the world every value matches your preferences.

          As you can see you can create a model with n dimensions and the problem of fiding the global optimum becomes harder and harder as you add new variables.

          I hope this helps :)

          1. Sorry for the typos and some missed words, my Hunglish kicked in :D

        2. @boomerang – you doubt that engineers use ten dimensional arrays because the number of elements is too big? It strains your credulity? You need to look into “sparse arrays”. Engineers, physicists and financial analysts use them a lot – computer science can cope rather better than our fragile imaginations might expect.
          You could take a look here for more info.

          1. Thanks for a good tip. However, it’s hardly ten dimension if you take advantage of two dimensional arrays with elements interconnected by mathematical algorithm alongside with making a good use of null values as well – which is pivotal point of this approach. I’ll give it a try anyway.

            I don’t know the problems Renault had last year but they solved it at quicker rate than Honda.

          2. @Boomerang it’s fairly obvious you have practical experience coding but no mathematical knowledge to back it up.

    5. So you know better than hundreds of engineers who work for all these different companies?

      1. I’m sure I do.
        It’s not impossible to know better mate.

        1. Going by your posting here, it’s obvious for everybody that yes ,at least for you, it’s indeed impossible to know better.

    6. @Boomerang> Not impressed? hmmm, ok, you must have the front of life handed to you so everything seems easy no? This is cutting edge technology, how you expect Honda to put together something that is being achieved for the first time and because all the “different” technologies have been there in some shape or form you expect them to be able to put it all together in a day and call it a wrap? You’re insane, you clearly do NOT understand the complexity in software and hardware development and packaging it into such small space the aero department gave the engineers, this is a massive massive undertaking.

      I’m not impressed with your view.

    7. They mastered rocket science in the 60s. This is far more complicated that mere rocket science.

    8. Coding complex systems is indeed rocket science! it is very easy to introduce runtime errors when working on large and complex code. just look at all the games that launch with issues…. and look at how after years of use vulnerabilities are found in security code etc.

  4. McLaren and Red Bull are taking quite different approaches with the media in their relationships with their engine partners. Both are “factory” teams, but one is saying “we are one team, we work together to solve our issues and if we win it will be down to us both”. The other is saying “we didn’t win last year and that is all because of the engine”. Given the way that Red Bull has previously torn into Renault (all through the V8 era they said the Renault produced the power of 2 harnessed children compared to the Ferrari and Mercedes while giving no credit to Renault for the work they did developing the engine maps that allowed them to optimise the blown diffuser).

    I know which approach I would want my team to be taking…

    1. amzing Renault puts up with it, isn’t it @geemac

      1. agreed with you both, RB surely are way to vocal

      2. @bascb Follow the money?

        1. I seriously doubt that Renault gains any money from supplying Red Bull with engines, even if we count in the amount Infinity pays to cover engine cost @davidnotcoulthard.

          Its more about Renault still being interested enough in racing as well as being with a winning team to stick with it.

      3. @bascb
        Not amazing at all. For starters, they know RBR is right, their engine was not up to the task.
        Secondly, they are not kindergarteners, they’re not going to break a very successful partnership just because the other party said something ugly.

    2. @geemac
      Don’t get fooled that easily by nice words. If Honda doesn’t deliver sooner than later, McLaren will dump them without a second thought. That’s as far as the “team spirit” will get.

      1. as opposed to Honda?? they made the decision to leave at the end of 2008 and ended up watching the car they could have been racing win both the drivers and constructors titles.
        i do agree that if podiums / race victories arent there within the first couple of seasons they will split.

    3. I think its not that big of a deal. RedRedbull had Renault on their car every year they had one and now but they’re not winning it’s still on their car. Renault would. Probably really only care about having recognition with people who could possibly use their engines and motorsport but anyone who would do that would already know what the engine company provides the Redbull with its power unit.

  5. Well, Alonso recently prefers samurai approach, so Honda’s working ethics is thing, which he likes.

  6. Ferrari have become so bad that even McLaren can’t be bothered to steal their data!

  7. Oh dear, not only the car is boring but also the uniforms, imagine you visit the paddock and you see a bunch of penguins running around, no worries it’s just the Mclaren staff hehe

    1. I do think that comments like yours are more boring.

  8. Chad Jonathan (@)
    11th February 2015, 16:23

    Interesting article. I’m not sure if i would go so far as to say that Honda uses a scientific approach, suggesting that Ferrari is not based on science. sale my car online even though a lot of other points were made here, it seems to me that this is kind of a harsh generalization.

  9. This PR campaign from Mclaren about Honda having super marsian technology and approach is becoming a little bit boring. We saw how good Honda was in the last decade.

  10. “I saw a very different approach compared with other teams, with a very scientific approach, a very technological approach.”

    So what approach are/were Ferrari, McLaren and Renault using? Alchemy and witchcraft?

  11. Alonso is impressed by Honda’s scientific approach. Ferrari is impressed by Vettel’s very detailed feedback. Interesting.

    1. @kroonracing I don’t think it’s interesting at all. It’s simply the involved parties saying what they have to say during a new partnership, (almost) everything is smiles, candies and rainbows.

      1. Exactly.

        Lets not forget the level of hype the day Fernando walked in to Maranello. He was a racing god for them, and Luca claimed he is better than Schumacher in every possible way. There isn’t even half that hype surrounding Vettel at Ferrari.

        Just random PR stuff

        Similarly, Fernando was impressed by the quality of the team and the winning heritage of the staff at Ferrari… blah blah blah

        1. @todfod You really need to post less. It would do yourself and this site a lot of good.

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