Honda replaces F1 engine chief Arai

2016 F1 season

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Honda has replaced Yasuhisa Arai in charge of its Formula One engine development programme.

His place has been taken by Yusuke Hasegawa, the new executive chief engineer who will oversee the manufacturing and management of the engine project. Honda has also appointed a new director in charge of their F1 programme, Yoshiyuki Matsumoto.

Arai will move to Honda’s research and development division as a senior managing officer.

Honda endured a difficult return to F1 with McLaren last year, achieving just five points finishes in a year which saw McLaren slip to ninth out of ten teams in the constructors’ championship.

The company’s new F1 engine was praised by Jenson Button when he drove it for the first time in yesterday’s test at the Circuit de Catalunya,

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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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28 comments on “Honda replaces F1 engine chief Arai”

  1. I was wondering when heads would start to roll at Honda. That was a thoroughly humiliating return to the sport. What made it so much worse was the arrogance and cocky attitude from them and Ron Dennis leading up to their return last year.

    1. Rons arrogance is acceptable though, he’s between a rock and a hard place.

      I say acceptable because, first, he’s Ron.

      Second, he has to keep the money flowing, Hondas arrogance and over promises wear unnacceptable however as they are a technical partner not a sponsor.

      Honestly Rons done an amazing job of recruiting talent, we can only speculate how good the chassis was last year, but let’s wait until the PU has some kick before we start bashing Ron.

      Until then, we can have a laugh on Honda.

      I doubt this role change will change anything.

      1. I wasn’t really “bashing” Ron. I’m actually a supporter. I think he’s incredibly talented, and I was glad when he took the reins again. It’s just over the years when teams have been overly confident, they always end up looking foolish. Because Honda was coming in a year behind everyone, it’s obvious they should have been humble about the new partnership. He just ended up looking stupid when the car turned out to be a clunker.

    2. Agree 100%.

      Ron is the #1 reason McLaren F1 is failure since Mika was champ in 1998. (Lewis’s title was pure luck).

  2. This is sudden! And that too on day 2 of testing? Did Mclaren do a low fuel full throttle run yesterday and found that the ultimate performance is still under par?

  3. It doesn’t look good at all. Another season to forget for mcLaren? A sabbatical year for Alonso? The only thing positive would be the arrival of Vandoorne.

  4. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    23rd February 2016, 8:39

    I do hope it is mere coincidence that this has happened after the first full day of testing Honda’s latest engine…

    1. @william-brierty
      I would like to think so too, but I’ve got a funny feeling that the two might be correlated.

  5. Eric Boullier said the Mclaren was ‘not good enough’ …. by that he meant the Honda PU was not up to the mark again. Jenson didn’t sound that ecstatic either… or at least enthusiastic enough that major progress was around the corner.

    I think Honda’s PU progress would be visible on the 1st day itself, and looks like they failed again. Guess it’s time up for Arai

    1. Yep, the timing is either weird or a very bad sign @todfod. Let’s see what happens.

      1. Yeah if the Honda was such a huge improvement why replace the guy in charge. Boullier said not good enough yesterday and today the Honda guy is replaced. Seems they have fallen short. Good news though if Haas and Manor can make McLaren uncomfortable this year at the back of the grid.

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised. Haas look’s pretty good out of the box, and Manor has put in some impressive times on Day 2 so far.

          I can see Alonso taking a sabbatical after pre season testing

  6. I was worried when I saw this, but then I read on the BBC that it’s mainly because Arai is getting close to retirement (he is 59 and Honda retirement age is 60). No need to panic – yet!

    1. So Honda only now discovered that Arai was close to his retirement age and decided to move him to another department after a disappointing performance of the Honda engine on the first test day? I don’t buy that.

    2. That makes even less sense – moving a guy only one year away from retirement to a new position, where it would take him quite some time to settle in. I think it’s obvious they see him as losing too much time.

  7. Quite possible that it’s a strategic announcement to counter sponsor nervousness after Day 1 showed that the engine is still down by a reasonable margin but much improved.

    The message for sponsors/supporters – “we’ve improved as you can see and we’re doing things to ensure that more things improve”

  8. I think it’s a sure sign that Honda have missed the mark big-time.

  9. ted said last night on the notebook that the McLaren was only a bit faster than last year down the other words, theyve stopped the engine brewing up but it still couldnt blow the skin off a rice pudding. a major embarrassment for all concerned and you feel for Button and Alonso as it appears another long season struggle is ahead of them

  10. Matt Parkinson
    23rd February 2016, 12:03

    I’d imagine a benchmark was set for the McLaren Honda day 1 testing (lap time, top speed, fuel consumption etc) which they have failed to achieve, so the axe had to fall to show progress to sponsors and the entire team?

  11. This was no knee jerk decision. Corporations like Honda probably have as much bureaucracy as the next, which means this was in the works for a while.

    Why is the real question. As many have hinted, could Honda and McLaren already know that they have yet another GP2 engine? Or is it politics? Or is it natural corporate succession, which is not uncommon in big companies.

    If the engine is a dud, we may have heard more about it over the winter. As we saw last season , McLaren were quite happy to orchestrate the grilling of Arab by the British media. So I would think that word would have ‘got out’ if the engine was totally rubbish. It ran well yesterday, it’s doing the miles today, and there is room to improve. Mclaren would have been kidding themselves if they expected a Merc beater on the first day.

    I am inclined to think that’s it’s political. Many things were said last season, but both parties appeared to put up a decent facade of kinship, but I’m sure there were cracks. Maybe Ron and Eric didn’t like the way Arai did business? Maybe they didn’t feel he was up to the job? At the risk of another PR gaffe, perhaps Honda’s hand was forced? I would like to think so. Ron has been known to sway a few decisions in his time. With Jost Capito coming in at CEO, it’s a good time to start with a clean slate.

    Whatever the case, we’ll find out in a couple weeks. When the bookmakers start touting odds for Stoffel Vandoorne starting at Melbourne, we’d have the answer.

  12. why stick with size-zero when it failed massivelly in the 1st year? why not embrace what others(ferrari and merc) have been doing with sucessufull results to try something that hasnt show any promise? i cant believe its going to be one more year seeing alonso and button suffering… i feel so gutted already and the season hasnt even started yet!

    1. Me too. It was already clear how much the PU output counted over aero in this era, so horrible choice by Honda. First year failure could perhaps be brushed under the carpet, but another season at the back is reputation damaged. Having Arai fall on his sword must be seen as face saving.

  13. A lot of people are quite worried that Arai (Honda F1 engine´s chief) has been replaced in the second day of testing of the new MP4-31 (assuming the engine is not the step forward Mclaren needs for this season).

    Just for clarification Japan has a different schedule regarding their Fiscal Year, it starts in April and end in March of the following year. Usually most japanese companies change their employees at the end of February or begging of March (although the managment probably took this decision several months ago they just made it public).

    You can arguee that Arai´s removal is due to the failure with last year engine but Honda will never admit that.

  14. 10mph slower on the straight.
    Slower lap times despite using softer tyres.
    Department head of the engine supplier resigns.
    Ron Dennis tenting his fingers and exclaiming “excellent” as Arai’s head is added to Ron’s wall of trophy’s, right next to Whitmarsh and taking the space formerly occupied by KMag.

    With any luck Alonso and Button resign too.

    1. Why the comment on Alonso and Button resigning- not relevant at all and just stupid

  15. It was clear to see that if at the end of 2015 season their car was still off the mark then it would continue for 2016. Here we are at 2016 and they can say is it’s working “better”.
    It’s just going to be another development year for the Honda/Mclaren.

  16. I’m just a fan, don’t know the insides o what happens behind the walls of the teams, but wow I never would have thought such a disaster would come from this partnership.

    A fellow Fanatic wrote here about hearing that the talented engineers of the glory Mclaren Honda days are effectively gone from the ranks at Honda.

    Speculating, and reading though what came out on the media during last year, was that there was an arrogance and lack of communication between Honda and Mclaren. Maybe this came from both sides, but the fact is what we hear from Mclaren Honda is a big contrast from what we hear from the likes of Ferrari.

    What I find fascinating is also how a driver also ends up having a strong influence in all of this. Just look at how Vettel unified Ferrari, or how Senna had Mclaren Honda.

    It takes a special driver to build a winning team around them. In teams like Mercedes, they have basically the best technical directors and engineers of the field- they bought every single top ranking man available 2 or 3 years ago , it was almost a recurring joke! – so they don’t require a Vettel , Senna, Prost/Lauda (well they have Lauda!) to develop the car and the team.

    What Mercedes reminds me today is of Williams on the Mansell Patrese Prost days- the car is so much more advanced that any talented driver can win races and championships in them. Ferrari is rebuilding like it did in the Michael Schumacher days, and looks like its on the right track, and what about Mclaren Honda? McLaren needs a “Senna”. Recently Mclaren hired talent from Championship and race winning teams like Renault, Red Bull, even Volkswagen, but its philosophy is not similar to former Frank Williams’s Williams Renault or current Mercedes- Mclaren is much more similar to current and Michael Schumacher era Ferrari. I admit I very much like this “team” approach then the Mercedes model. But for this model to succeed it really needs talented and team building drivers. Alonso last year made statement after statement in order to positively or negatively push the team forward. Button was much more low key, political. Both approaches didn’t work.

    Who could put Mclaren on the right track? A new Senna. Not only on raw speed, but on mentality, energy and obsession to improve and take the team further.

  17. why all the doom and gloom, McH were never going to be quick out of the box and beat the Mercs on day 1, there is no doubt that the first target is reliability, making sure the parts work and the flaws in the design concept are sorted out. Once done they can introduce the new elements to improve power and driveability. The Arai announcement ( in my opinion) is because they believe that they are now on the right rack and as such a new man coming in can concentrate on improvements and will not have to fire fight, if the new PU was a complete disaster Arai would have stayed on and taken the full blame before retiring at Honda’s obligatory 60 yrs old, no way would they have put a new head ( and a senior one too) in to this programme if it was expected to deliver the same rubbish again this year. It is because they are confident that this announcement comes now – which is the opposite of everyone else’s opinion

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