Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Toro Rosso expects “super-smooth” start with Honda will continue

2018 F1 season

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Toro Rosso technical director James Key says the team has had a “super-smooth” start with new power unit supplier Honda and expects that to continue.

Last year McLaren suffered a disastrous pre-season which led to it splitting from the Japanese manufacturer. However the Honda-powered STR13s have shown promising reliability so far and have already logged over 900 kilometres of running.

Sergio Perez, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
2018 F1 testing day four in pictures
Asked if he was surprised to have done so much running so far Key said “I think if you look at the situation last year it’s a surprise but having worked with them for a while it’s less of a surprise.”

“Looking at the facilities they’ve got and the desperate will they’ve got to make it work, it’s less of a surprise to me now.”

“Obviously you never know until you hit the track and I have to say there hasn’t been any major issues at all. Any minor stops we’ve had have been on our side. They’ve just been super-smooth to work with. They’re very inclusive, they attend all out meetings so we all know what’s going on, we’re working together on optimising everything. It’s been very smooth so far, I’m sure that will continue.”

The team was delayed briefly by a brake-by-wire problem caused by a software error on Thursday, Key added.

He confirmed the team is not using any McLaren-sourced parts despite the short time period they had to redevelop the STR13 to use a Honda engine instead of a Renault.

“Why would we want a bit of McLaren on an STR?” said Key. “It’s an STR gearbox.”

“The internals are common with Red Bull Technology but they’re jointly designed. The oil system is ours for example, the main case is absolutely ours, etc…, electronic and control systems are ours. It’s entirely STR. It has to be that way with the different engines because there’s fundamental differences with compatibility.”

Working with a work engine partner brings “positive pressure” to Toro Rosso, Key added.

“Because it’s a works deal it’s a proper combined effort. There’s all the dyno testing, R&D rig testing, join development in some areas, joint design work. Design work for next year is already underway. So all of that is very unique to our relationship too.”

“It’s a heavy responsibility all that, actually. We were looking forward to it, it’s very positive pressure. But it’s also a big responsibility to provide the level that Honda need to progress as well as they can with the team they’re working with.”

Key believes Honda appreciates the team’s willingness to let them pursue their own development objectives rather than impose restrictions on the power unit design for the chassis.

“Certainly our approach is to try and give Honda the freedom they need to make improvements on their side,” he said.

“There’s been, in the very short time we’ve had to collaborate on the 2018 engine, a few little compromise areas we’ve tried to deal with. Fundamentally we wanted to give them the support on freedom they need to go and get on with the job.”

“I get the feeling they appreciated that because there’s several things they wanted to try and we supported them in that and didn’t push them to do anything particularly difficult on the engine for the chassis.”

“We’ve certainly said to Honda just let us know what you want to do,” he added. “We’ll do the trade-offs and we’ll work out what the best package is because in the end we’re trying to combine for the best package not just the best power unit or just the best chassis, it’s got to be a combination.”

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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 “Toro Rosso expects “super-smooth” start with Honda will continue”

  1. For McLaren’s sake I hope not.

    1. I could be that the McLaren/Honda split was the kick in the pants that Honda need to get its act together, had they stayed, nothing would have changed. Got to say though, it looks like Alonso’s run of bad luck will continue.

      1. McLaren had a lot of wishes and design philosophy. Probably one of the problems was the way Honda had to adapt their systems to McL.
        ( like the size zero concept in the first two years)

        1. According to Honda, McLaren did not push them on the size zero.

          1. As far as I know Honda started with three concepts for the engine, one of which was with the compressor within the V of the engine. McLaren chose that design to proceed with, because it fitted with their Size Zero concept.

            Only after it turned out not to be working as they hoped, Honda changed it to one of the other two concepts (with the bigger compressor in a Mercedes like packaging) when the tokens were dropped.

      2. I find it hard to imagine that Honda needed a kick in the pants. They would have already been awfully frustrated and embarrassed and nose to the grindstone already. They would have been trying their hardest to prevent the McHonda breakup to begin with.

  2. Interesting, intriguing, curious and admiration

    The “super-smooth start” raises more questions than answers. What was going on with McLaren, what is so fundamentally different from STR, why is the engine working when before there was no hope at all that it would?

    Key believes Honda appreciates the team’s willingness to let them pursue their own development objectives rather than impose restrictions on the power unit design for the chassis.

    A dig at McLaren already. Love it

    1. I really believe that McLaren are not as blameless in the whole shambles as they like to make out. They hired two World Champions to drive for a project that was always going to take at least three years to get near to the front. Nobody wants to be rolling around at the back, but I can’t help but think that if McLaren had gone with Button and Vandoorne in 2015, they’d still be with Honda today. Whether that would be a good or bad thing, we’ll soon find out.

      Everything has an expiry date and frankly I would’ve made the same decision to switch the engines, but I don’t think they made it easy for Honda; particularly with Alonso shouting his mouth off at every GP with a long straight.

      I hope McLaren can be back towards the front with Alonso fighting for the podiums his talents deserve and I hope that Honda can quickly carry Toro Rosso towards the sharp end too.

      1. Ben Needham
        I am baffled as to how anyone can blame Mclaren for Honda’s inability to deliver a reliable power unit as promised for 3 straight years. The idea that a design decision made by Mclaren (the size zro concept or maybe another idea we have not heard of yet) been responsible for their power units cronic unreliability seems unlikely to me. I am no engineer, but if a concept was proposed by Mclaren, and Honda did not feel they could design a power unit for it, why not say you can’t. After all you are contributing the best part of £100 million a year to their coffers. Were Mclaren in a position to say no?
        No. Honda saw Mclaren as a test bed for its engineers to learn about hybrid power unit designs, and expected Mclaren to wait for as long as it took to get it right.

        1. @bonbonjai – clearly Honda’s reliability issues are their own problem and McLaren can’t be blamed for that. However, McLaren willingly got rid of the winning Mercedes engine at the end of 2014. This was done because they wanted to be a works team in their own right and didn’t want to play second fiddle to the works Mercedes team. That’s totally understandable, but they can’t possibly have expected to jump straight back to the front. The switch was done with a view to a long term success with a dedicated partner.

          Now, they are in the same position as they were four years ago, but with the third best engine, rather than the best. McLaren are far from blameless… they took a gamble which didn’t work and then refused to work with the supplier to better the situation.

    2. Well you need to understand that toro rosso is not putting heavy requirements for honda because they are a small team. They can’t afford to figure out the best solutions for marginal gains like mclaren could. It is not like toro rosso is choosing to let honda do their own thing. It is the only way str can afford to build a car.

      STR had a super tight schedule to make the honda engine fit into the car. I’m sure toro rosso simply just asked honda what they need and started working asap. They are giving away performance by doing that and if they had more money they’d not be doing that. Mclaren is one of the top teams in f1 and they require top job from all their parts manufacturers. It is honda’s fault if they can’t deliver what they promised. And honda never even looked they could even begin to figure it out. 3 years with 0 progress.

      And it is about time honda makes an engine that doesn’t instantly blow up. It is not really a great success if honda can finally after 4 years build an engine that survives full weekend’s amount of mileage. That is like the lowest of the lowest requirements for an engine. Don’t instantly blow up. Hooray for the smart honda engineers? Great job, did not run out of engines on first day?

      After all honda had million issues. Poor fuel consumption which mean that despite being down on power they had to massively save fuel in races as well. The reliability was utter trash and it also looks like the honda engine package needs the most amount of cooling out of all the engines. Which means more drags as your air inlets need to be bigger. With more questions marks with drivability and actual race settings they can use without melting the thing. Let’s see how str likes them apples after couple of races when they have no power to defend on straights, no chassis to be fast in corners and need to save fuel.

      1. TR builds cars with minimal costst. If the Honda engine needs more space to work as intended they will comply.
        McL had aonother agenda and Honda had to comply with McL. Both partys made mistakes and you seem to underestimate the influence of McL on the engine development.
        Let’s see how the low budget team TR performs with a Honda in the back and let’s hope McL is on par with the big boys this year.

      2. @socksolid very good points, it is certainly the point that better suits McLarens narrative, and most likely the reality. Some are speculative however, how will we know if STR is giving away performance, lets say they finish 5th, behind McLaren, are they really giving away performance? It is a step forward nevertheless, even if they improve just one position from last year, it already payed off

        Of course, I’m not congratulating Honda for managing to have an engine that appears to be working, far from it, but don’t you find it interesting that it does now?

        It is intriguing for me, McLaren always blamed Honda, and Honda always accepted it, no doubt in my mind that if there is someone to blame it is Honda. But if things go on like this, is it so odd to question the McLaren-Honda relationship? Aren’t you curious to understand that synergy, did McLaren asked for unreasonable things and Honda promise to deliver them? Where McLaren supportive of alternatives presented by Honda? Those margins that we all talk about now, in engineering you find those margins, you can’t mandate them and go on a blind quest to reach them, and if this was the case who as impairing the sight of who? Would I love to have an honest answer to all these questions.

        We can’t as well pretend that McLaren has been doing the most perfect of jobs, look at the start of the test for example. They have been a bit off their best in the last few years, even when they had Mercedes engines they were beaten by Williams, and their best result matched Force India’s, which weren’t that far away from them in the standings. Honda was a problem, but not the only one. And even if they represent 10 million problems, if they don’t find a solutions for the few that are left, they will still be chasing.

        1. @johnmilk
          >are they really giving away performance

          Str has smaller budget so yes. And more crucially str had very little time to move from renault engines to hondas. The two engines use different turbo layout which means the cooling for example is very different. Even if honda poured in money in wheelbarrows into str they would even have enough time to spend all that money. Time and money. Str had neither as much as mclaren did.

          And if mclaren asked for unreasonable things and honda promised to deliver and then didn’t deliver then the fault is 100% at honda. You can ask for whatever you want but if it is unreasonable then it is honda’s job to tell they can not do it. Promising to do something you can’t do was wrong on honda’s part (if that is what happened). And mclaren did use mercedes’ engines in 2014 so they had good idea to ask for things.

          A lot of people also seem to have forgotten that mclaren offered to help honda. Send engineers and work more deeply together. Honda refused. Maybe that’s different now with str. Or maybe more superficial relationship works better because str can’t afford to spare 50 engineers and send them to japan.

          Engineering margins and design specifications are results of agreements where both parties agree to do x together. If both parties agree to do something and one party fails to deliver then it is not the fault of the party who asked too much. It is the fault of the party who over-promised and under-delivered.

          1. Str has smaller budget so yes. And more crucially str had very little time to move from renault engines to hondas.

            So they are all giving away performance, since time is limited for everybody, and even the richest of teams has a ceiling that they cannot go above.

            And if mclaren asked for unreasonable things and honda promised to deliver and then didn’t deliver then the fault is 100% at honda. You can ask for whatever you want but if it is unreasonable then it is honda’s job to tell they can not do it

            Never said the contrary.

            Engineering margins and design specifications are results of agreements where both parties agree to do x together.

            Yes, the result however might not reach those margins, unless you are talking about a closed product the responsible of that product has to be held accountable if at delivery they are not up to specifications. But F1 PUs are not a closed product, and are subject to constant optimisation, changes and development, you can look at them as an R&D project, you might reach, surpass or fall short of a given objective. Of course if one party grantees something and it doesn’t deliver, it is their fault, but agreeing to do something together does not mean you will get what you need. For example you and I can agree to build a time capsule, we will eventually reach the conclusion that it cannot be done due to technological constraints, not saying this is what happened, but I would like to know the details of how that relationship went about. Engineering – doing precision guess work based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

            It is not that I’m trying to shift the blame towards McLaren, is just that I’m very curious to understand why a company like Honda failed to provide a half decent engine, even though they worked with the most successful F1 team during these last 3 years

    3. Joao
      You do know Torro Rosso are a smaller outfit than Mclrean right? And lets be honest here, them taking a Honda power unit and the financial backing they get will do them good (Red Bulls spend less on the team, Honda make the short fall). Mclaren are a very different kettle of fish. I wish them well (Honda that is) but they had 3 years to get it right with a big team, and didn’t. And even if they produced a world class leading power unit this year or next, would that make up for the 3 years of embarrassment for Honda and Mclaren brands? I don’t think so. All it would prove, is that they eventually got it right (no one doubted that they would, the bigger question was when) but Mclaren simply could not wait any longer, especially, as then seem to have gone backwards last year, and showed no sign guaranteed improvement.

      1. @bonbonjai let me start with this, that is an awesome username

        Apart from that, you can see my response to socksolid above

      2. @bonbonjai, I was under the impression that Honda aren’t actually putting that much, if any, money into Toro Rosso this year (some of the funding has been diverted towards their engine division, but most of the money that was going into the partnership with McLaren is simply going elsewhere within Honda instead).

    4. The fundamental difference is a new engine…

      It may turn out to be great or not. It certainly appears to be more reliable at the moment but they are around 2 seconds slower the McLaren at the moment in testing. I know testing is not necessarily a great show of relative speed due to unknown fuel loads and testing programmes but I think we can safely say that there is currently no evidence that the Honda engine has blistering performance compared to the opposition.

      I think McLaren should have continued with the Honda as I think Honda will get it right at some point but it may be next season before we see Honda winning and that was probably too long for McLaren to wait.

      1. Well, if mclaren (or any of us honda blamers) had expected honda to at least make a drastic reliability improvement and then move on from there performance wise in 2018, they’d have continued with honda, and alonso would’ve stayed too, the thing is who could expect it except the “alonso’s bad decisions” conspirators?

        I know testing is what it is, but 2 seconds between mclaren and toro rosso isn’t necessarily saying honda engine is slower than renault, mclaren already had a certain performance advantage on toro rosso last year, they just had terrible reliability, when you add that alonso is one of the top drivers, vandoorne got surprisingly close to him and hartley and gasly are probably some of the worst (so far), I’m not sure honda isn’t faster than renault right now with the same car and same driver!

  3. I hope so and about time too. It’d be great to have four competitive engines available to the grid. I’d already mentally consigned Toro Rosso to the back of the grid for this year and I still expect them to be, but perhaps not as far adrift as I’d thought. The reliability is the most important; get to the end of the races first and then work on the performance.

    1. @ben-n I don’t necessarily agree with that. If an STR finishes it’s very likely that’ll be outside the points anyway. So wouldn’t they rather have one in every four races where they finish P8 together with 3 DNFs instead of finishing four times P11-22.

      1. @flatsix – in the short term; yes, I totally agree. Points mean prizes! But when looking at the longer term (ie: next year as well as the end of this season), I’m told it’s easier to make a reliable engine fast, than to make a fast engine reliable. Swings and roundabouts perhaps – and I’m no engine whizz! “To finish first; first you must finish…” :-)

        1. @ben-n:

          I’m told it’s easier to make a reliable engine fast, than to make a fast engine reliable.

          I thought it was the other way round.

          1. Thank goodness I’m not working for an engine production company then!

    2. i can imagine Honda and TR will take several penalty’s this year to get the engine Red Bull needs for 2019.
      For TR it’s better to end a few races in the points and lose others as a result of penaltys, than all races reliable at the back.

  4. So basically after 4 years they can finally have an engine running for 2 consecutive days and people start being in admiration and wondering what was wrong with McLaren?!

    This world is doomed.

    1. @pyon “This world is doomed” Oh the irony.

    2. Mercedes worked for 5 years on their engine before it was introduced. So 4 years is actually a realistic timeframe. Blaming Honda for not having a winning engine ready in 18 months, then demanding 2 redesigns in the next 3 years clearly isn’t a good way of generating success. McLaren didn’t build Honda’s engine but from the Amazon documentary and their own problems before and after Honda arrived and left, it is clear to see that Honda was only one part of why they haven’t been successful since 2012.

      1. It is not that honda didn’t “build a winning engine in 18 months”. They couldn’t even build an engine that runs.

        1. socksolid
          Exactly. Come to think of it, it’s the fact that at no stage last season, did they show the kind of progress, that McLaren could cling to with hope for something better to come.

  5. While I genuinely wish for McLaren Renault to at least have a chance to be contenders, it would be hilarious for them to be beaten by Torro Rosso Honda.

  6. I saw Keith (@keithcollantine) had posted the distances covered by the various drivers at the pre-season testing. At about midday on 1st March Pierre Gasly has covered 591.185km and Brendon Hartley has covered 442.225km, which has a combined tally of about 1033 km.
    As far as I know Valtteri Bottas is the only driver to have driven for Mercedes, and he’d driven 944 km up to that same time. So things appear to be going well for Toro Rosso – Honda.

    1. @drycrust Hamilton drove the Mercedes on day 1 as well.

      1. Oh yes, he did too. My apologies, I overlooked his name on the list. Together they’d driven the car 1061 km up to that time.

  7. Ofc STR has “own” parts because this is an evaluation of the Honda engine for Red Bull proper and they dont intend to run McLaren gearboxes.
    Ofc the engine runs better when its all an glorified testbed for the engine and not a team pushing for podiums.
    If the engine was competitive it would be in the Red Bull car already so no need to worry yet all Mclaren fans out there.

  8. Well just calm down here. It’s a no- brainer considering McLaren did all their testing for them and in the full view of the public plus suffering all the negative reactions that ensued. I would have been astonished had Honday NOT have arrived with a dtiveable package for testing given that they have had yet another 2 months to refine the product. Surely no-one expected that Honda would turn up again with a bad PU did they? Seriously? The question remains however, can Honda even begin to be competitive in a way that would give Red Bull the confidence to go with Honda next season? It’s early days but the signs are that McLaren made the correct decision. I was a die-hard McLaren Honda supporter and am a great believer in Honda products generally but their F1 foray was been misguided from the beginning, and I’m not falling into the trap of believing that it was all McLarens fault.

    1. @baron Agreed and well said. I’ll just add that no matter how you look at it, Mac and Honda HAD to part ways. If by some miracle suddenly STR was more competitive than Mac this year, the only thing you could accuse Mac of is not having ESP. Who in their right mind was saying last year that Mac was crazy to let Honda go?

    2. @baron Are we not assuming that Mclaren thought they’d be turning up with a bad PU? Else they’d have kept it for themselves after all the public testing they did for them?

      Mclaren were right to pursue a works engine, and Honda was the only option. With Red Bull ailenating Renault so enormously it left Mclaren the slightly better option of going with their power… However, longterm, the picture doesn’t look great for them, does it? Renault are a works team in their own right now and RB will be Honda works.

      With the PU so important, and an important talking point from a commercial standpoint, I cannot see a bright future for McLaren right now, however hard I try.

      1. @gongtong I think it’s more a question of did McLaren feel that Honda would turn up with a competitive package in 2018? Clearly they did not. One has to assume that McLaren assumed that at the very least, Honda would turn up at testing with a working PU as has been proven. It is in everybody’s interest to hope McLaren achieves a strong package this year as it only enhances the sport for us fans. I wish the same for all the other 9 teams as well. It’s a win win. Howver, I’m a bit stumped with the level of schadenfreude sometimes exhibited on fan forums, it seems to be a pandemic of the 21st century and fortunately, not too evident here

        1. Apologies for bold. It’s all going Pete Tong today..😥

          1. Yeah keep it down will you, I can barely hear myself read;)

          2. @baron I agree that it would be fantastic to see McLaren back at the sharp end, I would love to see a much closer fight all round. Especially for my own team, Williams. However, whilst Williams have got closer to the front with a nice Merc engine mounted out the back, it comes at the price that we’re not going to fight for a title any time soon.

            A McLaren with a works deal, moving towards a successful future is what I hoped for and what I personally was disappointed with was that both the team and the fans expected that successful future to materialise within a fairly short timeframe.

            As for the Schadenfreude, I should be clearer that I’m certainly not a part of that crowd (and can see why my comment might be misconstured that way). However, we also all have to, I think, go a little easy on those people. Both RB and McLaren, ,whilst obviously frustrated with the situation, have not exactly endeered themselves to the fans with their behaviour towards their suppliers.

  9. *driveable* Sorry.

  10. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    1st March 2018, 13:57

    When Honda joined F1, they had stated that their PU would be comparable to Mercedes’. Of course, history has proven that Honda was completely off and remained off for 3 years. It’s so hard to predict performance in advance of the season in F1.

  11. Just happy that it’s a positive start on a new partnership for Honda and Torro Rosso. Mc + Honda was a gamble which didn’t pay off, involved management changes, strategy changes and when things like that happen it can easily make it difficult to see the wood through the trees. It’s unfortunate but lets not forget the issues Renault had, not too dissimilar to Honda, albeit Honda’s were worse, now with the running seen on the first day Hulk and the Renault look good as do Red Bull.

    I really do hope TR have a good season and that it gives the Red Bull team in general a difficult decision to make come the end of this season, although if the Honda engine is good enough for the Red Bull team to be in at least podium contention i can’t seen them not going fully with Honda.

  12. Somebody please tell Toro Rosso to get a reality check. This is the Honda power plant that rides the pages of the history books as perhaps the most lousy racing engine ever made, a career ruiner.
    But TR is still in love and you know how love is, often becoming a trip down the road of madness. Currently all is good until all is bad gets into town. I give them 4races until both sides seek counciling.

  13. McLaren (Denis) wish to become a works team and have the engine exclusively cost them darely and will ultimately hit Toro Rosso as well. Making a winning engine from scratch is tough but making it to the top with just two car running wasn’t a brilliant idea specially since they already had two years to catch and a token system to respect. Even Mercedes needed around five years working with several cars at once to become the reference.

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