As the struggling McLaren-Honda union hit a new low at Suzuka, Yasuhisa Arai suggests the one-way blame game needs to stop.
In front of the Japanese carmaker’s highest-ranking officials at the Honda-owned track, the new alliance with McLaren appeared on the brink of total collapse.
Jenson Button is threatening to quit, Fernando Alonso flirted with being sacked by saying racing Honda’s “GP2 engine” is “embarrassing”, and earlier this month at Monza, an attack on Honda’s F1 chief Arai during a press conference was interpreted by most as having been orchestrated by McLaren.
Asked how things are going between McLaren and Honda, Arai told Spain’s El Pais in Japan: “The communication is very good, and better every day. “So I do not quite understand the harassment and attack I had lately, especially at Monza, where I was subjected to the third degree,” said the Japanese.
He is referring to Monza, where reporters – mainly British – demanded Arai apologise to McLaren for its woeful ‘power unit’ and also consider quitting the project. Arai insisted: “Honda is aware of the difference between us and the top teams, and we know what we are doing to work on it. But I am sorry and sad that we (Honda) take all of the blame.”
Increasingly, the McLaren-Honda alliance appears to be crumbling, but team supremo Ron Dennis pulled himself out of his sick-bed on Sunday to insist that – despite all the apparent turmoil and fraying tempers – they remain united.
Asked if Honda feels supported by McLaren, Arai answered: “From the technical point of view, yes. “But, and if I may return to Monza, the acrimony of the press should not have reached that level. Of course we are disappointed too, but that negativity does not help.”
Asked if he expected more from McLaren, Arai admitted: “Honestly, yes. “It is the responsibility of the team not to create situations like this. As one team we do everything possible to be united and not create division. “Honda has always been honest, we explained where we are and what we need to improve, but that has not been done as a team and it would have been better to tell everyone that.”
Arai admitted that, in hindsight, it might have been better for Honda to keep working on its ‘power unit’ behind the scenes this year, rather than in the harsh F1 spotlight. “We knew it would be very difficult but at the same time, being here in 2015 has allowed us to learn a lot,” he said. “But again, everything is not the responsibility of the engine. Also in terms of the chassis it (the project) is suffering a lot.”
But he also acknowledged that, while insisting Honda’s combustion engine is good, a big problem is the energy-recovery side, where at tracks like Suzuka with long straights, the drivers are left 160 horse power down at times. “To solve it this year will be difficult,” said Arai, “because it requires a re-design. But we are already working on it with a view to next season.”