NOVEMBER 30, 2016

Podium a realistic goal for Honda

Honda is targeting the podium for 2017.

Honda is targeting the podium for 2017.

That is despite the fact that Fernando Alonso has never ruled out the possibility that, after McLaren-Honda's struggles in 2015 and this year, the title remains a goal for next season.

"Everyone has improved a lot in the year, both at McLaren and at Honda," said Honda's F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa.

"We have shown some good results, but in the end I am not satisfied with the results we have," the Japanese told Speed Week.

Indeed, McLaren finished the season sixth, with Hasegawa hinting that the rise to the very top might take the Anglo-Japanese collaboration a little longer.

"A podium would be a good result," Hasegawa said. "And also a realistic goal, even if there is still a lot of work and some unknowns regarding 2017.

"For example, we do not know where the other teams are in terms of performance. The key is time," he insisted. "We need time for success."

However, Hasegawa said he is happy with McLaren's 2017 driver lineup, with rookie Stoffel Vandoorne to replace the retiring Jenson Button.

While highly rated, Belgian Vandoorne is largely untested and new McLaren CEO Jost Capito says retaining Fernando Alonso beyond 2017 is a top priority.

And new McLaren executive Zak Brown has made a point of saying the door remains open in the future for Lewis Hamilton, whose relationship with Mercedes appears shaky.

Hasegawa, meanwhile, backed Vandoorne.

"Stoffel has shown that he can fight," he said.

"Normally, a new driver is a risk, but Stoffel is talented and calm. We have no great concerns about his performance as he has proved his talent already.

"The biggest problem is when a driver wants to prove something, but I want Stoffel to do his job and not put on a show. We have to make him feel good.

"This will be very important," the Japanese said.