Former Manor Formula One driver Roberto Merhi believes Honda has made more progress on its engine than partner team McLaren on the MP4-31 chassis.
The Japanese manufacturer’s troubles in the latest 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged era have been well documented, but the Woking-based outfit has often said its last two chassis, both designed by chief engineer Peter Prodromou, feature amongst the top three on the grid.
McLaren-Honda racing director Eric Boullier actually said ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix that his team could beat Ferrari in the Principality thanks to its superior chassis. But while Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button secured an encouraging double points finish in a wet-to-dry race, Boullier was not happy with the car’s ultimate performance.
“I think Honda has progressed more than I expected,” Merhi said in an interview with Spanish publication Marca. “They seem to have a healthy top speed this year, but the car chassis is lacking.
“In Monaco, there is not too much emphasis on the engine and you could see Toro Rosso has a good chassis [Carlos Sainz qualified seventh with a year-old Ferrari power unit].
“I think McLaren still lacks 20% from the engine side, and 20% from the chassis. Fernando [Alonso] finished fifth but that was down to the strategy, not the car. The engine has improved this year, but the chassis has not made the same leap.”
Having failed to secure an F1 drive this year, Merhi has moved across to the FIA World Endurance Championship with Manor and will take part in his first Le Mans 24 Hours next weekend.