Honda's head of F1 project Yusuke Hasegawa says its latest power unit upgrade is closing the gap on its front-running rivals as the Japanese manufacturer confirms a 'Spec 4' power unit is in the development pipeline.

McLaren-Honda endured a frustrating British Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso retiring with a fuel pump issue while team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne narrowly missed out on a first points finish of 2017 in 11th place.

Both drivers ran the 'Spec 3' power unit at Silverstone - after an initial debut during Friday free practice in Baku - as the Japanese manufacturer aims to turnaround its disastrous start to 2017.

After a complete change in engine concept from its underwhelming efforts in its the previous two seasons, major flaws only became evident during pre-season testing at Circuit de Catalunya which has led the McLaren-Honda partnership to breaking point.

Honda has been focusing on development upgrades, which Hasegawa feels have been successful since the scrapping of the F1 token system which handicapped upgrade deliveries in previous seasons, and despite still being off the pace of its rivals he is confident it is reducing the performance gap to the top manufacturers.

"I get excited when we bring an update, because it can lead to increased expectations of scoring points or similar," Hasegawa said. "But still we need more from our other updates to catch up to the level of Mercedes and Ferrari.

"I am definitely confident that we are closing the gap to the leaders so, from that point of view, our speed of development is good. But at the same time it is natural for the follower because you have a target that you know is achievable."

With a 'Spec 4' power unit in the works Honda is yet to confirm whether the upgrade will be introduced before the end of the 2017 season but with a year of experience with its new concept Hasegawa feels it can find stronger performance compared to its previous efforts.

"We don't stop developing, we need to keep updating," he said. "Of course the performance and results are the most important things but it's all learning for the future too. Compared to last year we needed to modify the engine concept, but next year we will keep the same concept.

"It's good that we can use the same concept because this year's development and improvement is directly connected to next year. So that means we don't need to stop the current development, and from that point of view we have already started next year's design."

Despite Hasegawa's positive outlook for 2018, questions still remain about its current partnership with McLaren with disputes ongoing for next season, while sources close to the Sauber-Honda deal rate its chances as '50/50'.



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