Both sides of the McLaren-Honda partnership insist that their working relationship is as good as it has ever been following the fractious 2015 campaign that followed their much-vaunted reunion.
While results this season do not necessarily mirror the improvements within the camp – McLaren remains seventh in the constructors' table behind the likes of Force India and Toro Rosso – both racing director Eric Boullier and Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa praised the way the two parties were now working together, seemingly more optimistic about the future.
“Obviously we now have Yusuke Hasegawa [working with us],” Boullier commented, emphasising the Honda-directed switch from Yasuhisa Arai over the off-season, “He joined the programme in January and the relationship has never been so close as today.
“It is very collaborative, we are meeting regularly, more than regularly face-to-face, even if today there is some technology to do video calls or whatever. I think the project itself is getting more mature and so I think [it's] all fine so far.”
Hasegawa agreed with the Frenchman, without dwelling too much on the failings of his predecessor in what was a tough first season back working with Woking.
“I don't know about last year, but this year I have a really good collaboration with McLaren and I think we are progressing together,” he noted, “I think it is a very good thing.”
A steady stream of points has yet to be forthcoming for McLaren this season, but the team has already surpassed the measly 27 points it scraped in 2015, with Fernando Alonso's seventh place in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix further stretching the gap back to upstart newcomer Haas. Both team and engine partner admit that the Hungaroring flattered the MP4-31, but confirmed that there was still room to work on the 2016 car – in spite of unfriendly circuits like Spa and Monza looming on the schedule – before switching full attention to next year and the new set of regulations tat comes with it.
“I can just tell you [the amount of work and effort we are putting in] is 100 per cent - and even more,” Boullier said of the task of developing for two very different seasons, “We are still working on this year's car and we also work on next year's car. I can't disclose in which percentage we are working on [each], but I can tell you, after the shutdown, most of the pit lane will work 100 per cent on the development of next year's car. That is it, but we are working very, very hard.”
With teams being restricted to just four power units regardless of the number of grands prix slated for 2017 – previously there has been a provision for a fifth power unit to be used if the number of races exceeded 20 – Honda is also hard t work on the next iteration of its V6 turbo.
“Of course, we have already started the 2017 engine development, but we won't give up this year's engine development as well,” Hasegawa confirmed, “So, it is a difficult judgement [regarding] how much resources we have to divide…. I'm sorry I can't describe the exact number, but we do both jobs so far.”
Just the German Grand Prix now sites between the teams and the summer break, and it remains to be seen whether there can be enough development of the 2016 car and power unit for McLaren-Honda to rescue a top five championship position as it currently trails the more consistent Force India by 36 points...