Where are the biggest weaknesses still? Where would Honda like to make progress over this year?
“Still we are not satisfied with engine power, and also the deployment and harvest. So we want to improve in those areas while keeping the reliability.”
How difficult is that to do when you can’t go testing significantly after the eight days of pre-season? There are two in-season tests but then in races you don’t want to sacrifice performance for testing…
“It is very difficult. But of course we have a dyno in Sakura in Japan. The tests are very important but we have to prove and check the performance on the dyne first. It is difficult because after the tests there is very few chance, but from an engine performance point of view it shouldn’t be hugely affected. Maybe from a car point of view it’s more difficult to achieve set-ups etc.”
You mentioned how pleased Honda is with testing, have you had the same feedback from McLaren?
“Because the engine has been very stable so they can focus on setting up the car and on aero performance, it is very good for the team. So I’m very happy about that.”
Is it key in your role to be the man who is the go-between between the engineers at Honda and McLaren?
“Yes, of course. It is to prioritise what is very important in timing for the team. That’s one of my roles.”
What are the key things Arai-san has said to you and perhaps warned you of?
“He hasn’t said any particular things. He said to me that I have to lead everything inside Honda of course and maybe for the team as well.”
When your appointment was made public there was also an announcement of an increase in Honda’s commitment to F1. What’s changed in the structure from last year?
“We have appointed a Honda Motor Company board member - Yoshiyuki Matsumoto - as the supervising director of F1 from the Honda Motor side, we’re the R&D side. So of course last year the Honda Motor side was very much interested about Formula 1 as well and Arai-san always reported to Honda Motors but we didn’t have such a position . So to have that position it is very clear to everybody on the inside and the outside who has the responsibility and it shows that we have a commitment to Formula 1.”
Does it give confidence to the team after a difficult first year knowing that the whole company is behind you?
“Yes, I think so.”
There was some very good feedback for the upgrade which ran in the second test, how different to the power unit which ran in the first test was it? Was it a big change?
“No, the specification is exactly the same but we modified some of the internal parts and also the settings were the biggest difference. We had not prepared very good settings during the first test which we could apply for the second test and for the races.”
Will it be the same specification which runs in Melbourne?
“Yeah, definitely. Exactly the same.”
Will there be new settings for the first race too?
“Maybe but actually I don’t want to do that. I want to fix the whole settings and the data in testing and just bring that to Melbourne. That is preferable, but if necessary of course we can check if we need to modify it.”
Are you excited by the potential of what you saw in testing?
“As we are always saying, it is very difficult to tell from the test results. But I am not very optimistic about performance. We were around seventh and sixth; it is not very good. It is good compared to last year, but it is not very good. So I am not satisfied with that. We have bigger targets still.”