MAY 18, 2016
Honda wants to challenge Mercedes in 2017
Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa is looking ahead with confidence to the grand prix in Monaco next weekend.
Fernando Alonso called his Q3 breakthrough in Barcelona a "milestone", but Hasegawa said the McLaren-Honda package should be even better on the streets of the fabled Principality.
"In Monaco, engine performance is not as important," he is quoted by Spain's El Mundo Deportivo.
"It is one of the circuits where we can get better results right now. We have two great drivers and I have high hopes for this grand prix."
Indeed, McLaren says it has one of the very best chassis on the grid, while Honda has put the disaster of 2015 behind it by making significant progress this year.
Hasegawa insisted, however, that "not all the problems at McLaren have been due to the power unit. All parties need to improve in order to win the world championship next year," he added.
Diario Sport, another Spanish daily, claims Honda is currently working on an engine upgrade with a projected Montreal debut, but Hasegawa says "We have not decided (when) yet".
"We are working on it, finishing the details and we will put it on track only when we are ready.
"Our idea is to bring together with this evolution several tokens for a significant jump," he added.
"We hope it allows us to be regularly in the points."
The Japanese spoke of the possibility of a leap of "tenths" but stopped short of promising podiums later in 2016.
"It is very difficult, but we are working every day not to get a podium but to win. In this way, our rate of improvement since the start of the year is good, better even than Mercedes.
"We're happy, but still not enough," Hasegawa-san added.
He said the end of the controversial 'token' system for 2017 is "very good news for Honda".
"We have a plan to challenge Mercedes in 2017," he continued. "We are working to have a competitive car so that Fernando Alonso can win."
As for the relationship with McLaren, Hasegawa said that despite the challenges, all is well amid the "long-term" contract and collaboration.
"We are working very well together," he said. "Last year was terrible, but our relationship remained strong."