Honda has confirmed a switch in management of its Formula 1 operation ahead of its new partnership with Toro Rosso, with Yusuke Hasegawa replaced by Toyoharu Tanabe as its new head.

Hasegawa, who took over from Yasuhisa Arai as Honda F1 boss at the start of 2016, has been retained as Executive Chief Engineer but lost his Head of F1 project status as of 1st January 2018.

Tanabe, who was Jenson Button’s chief engineer during his Honda B.A.R. days, has been promoted from senior manager in Honda’s performance development division to F1 Technical Director at the start of next year.

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Tanabe’s main focus will be to direct Honda’s efforts at F1 races and testing alongside Toro Rosso with a new Operating Officer of HRD to oversee all research and testing from Sakura. The new Operating Officer is yet to be formally confirmed by Honda.

Katsuhide Moriyama, Chief Officer for Brand and Communication Operations at Honda, says the restructuring of the Japanese manufacturer’s hierarchy will enable it to work more efficiently and develop faster.

“In the past, the Head of F1 Project assumed responsibility in both technological development and directing the team at the spot of racing,” Moriyama said. “By separating these areas of responsibility, we will evolve our structure so that both the development team and racing/testing team can assume their respective responsibilities more speedily.

“By ensuring both the development team and racing team soundly fulfil their respective roles, Honda will continue its challenges so that fans can enjoy seeing Toro Rosso-Honda competing at the top level without further delay.”

Honda is preparing for its new collaboration with Toro Rosso in 2018 after ending its partnership with McLaren after three frustrating years in F1. McLaren has switched to Renault engines from 2018.

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Scapegoat? Time will tell.