Honda is looking to introduce two more engine upgrades in 2016 before turning its full attention towards the 2017 Formula 1 season.
In an interview with Autosport, chief Yusuke Hasegawa revealed that the first of the two upgrades should be ready for either Spa or Monza, with the final one planned for one of the last couple of races of the season.
“We only have nine races, so even if you have an idea, we only have two chances to introduce it,” said Hasegawa. “So we have one chance at Spa and one more after that and the plan is still to use all of the tokens.”
Hasegawa also admitted that among his biggest challenges has always been the decision on when to stop developing this year’s power unit and when to finally dedicate most of his company’s resources to getting ready for 2017.
“This is the biggest job for me, deciding when to divert resource from this year to next year. So far, I won’t give up on this year, but maybe this month, I have to decide. After September, the research will stop. We will have dyno testing in October and November but we will have no research for this year after that.”
As for how their engine has fared so far compared to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault’s power units, Hasegawa admits that at the moment, they’re still trailing their rivals.
“We’re number four. It is Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and then Honda. We have a huge gap to Renault. I’ve been surprised by their progress. They have done a very good job. Next year, we’re aiming to achieve the level of Mercedes engine. At this moment, I don’t know if that is possible but that is our aim.”
Despite having only the fourth-best engine in F1, the Honda exec would be satisfied if McLaren finished out the year as arguably the fourth best team, behind only Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
“It’s difficult to measure the level of performance, but we want to repeat the Hungary situation. If we can achieve that level, we have to be satisfied and maybe with some luck we will get the chance to get a podium.”