13 May 2015
Arai talks ‘pressure’ and McLaren podiums by mid-season
Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai remains confident McLaren-Honda can achieve some lofty ambitions in 2015 despite having not scored a point yet
Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai believes McLaren has the ability to turn its form around in time to end the 2015 F1 season on a high, suggesting a podium by mid-season is still possible.
Having dominated the sport together in the late 1980's, the Japanese firm returned to F1 as an engine supplier with McLaren this season, but has so far endured a troubled beginning to its rekindled relationship.
Beset by performance and reliability woes, though the team has made strides from pre-season when it struggled to muster laps altogether, McLaren is one of only two teams – along with Manor – yet to score a point after five races
Despite this, the atmosphere at McLaren remains positive, with drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, as well as managers Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier, repeatedly emphasising their belief that the new set-up will yield excellent results in the future.
It is a view shared by Arai who, whilst admitting Honda has almost developing an entirely new power unit from the one it started pre-season testing with, says that development is now coming along well.
“Honestly, before the season - at the pre-season test - it was not so good, there were many unexpected issues and we did not run,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and wasted time not testing, just confirming what was happening, so we had a delay in the schedule, but we immediately caught up, step by step, very quickly.
“Power-wise and also the characteristics have quite changed. It is almost a new power unit.”
Indeed, Arai is convinced McLaren-Honda has the ability to progress quickly up the order, suggesting Williams and Ferrari can be caught by the end of the year and even predicting a podium challenge as soon as mid-season.
“We believed we could get points [in Spain], but unfortunately we had trouble on Fernando's car, so it was a very pessimistic result. Maybe in Monaco or Canada we will have a much better chance of getting points, and then to achieve a podium in the middle of the season – we hope.”
For Arai, the huge success of McLaren and Honda's former collaboration means he feels pressure from Honda to return to that glory.
“Australia was not such a good result, but race by race, getting better and Honda are very happy. We have a huge great history as McLaren-Honda, 1988, and everybody thinks about that, so I have very big pressure on me.”
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