May 1 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Jenson Button has confirmed reports Honda is working on a major redesign of its F1 ‘power unit’ for McLaren to use in 2017.
The Japanese marque has made steps forward this year after a disastrous 2015, but Button was still a tenth shy of making it into ‘Q3′ in Russia.
So while Honda is planning more upgrades for later this year, reports this week suggested the manufacturer has now acknowledged that putting the turbo inside the ‘V’ of the six-cylinder internal combustion engine was a mistake.
“I think with the way the engine is, yes, it’s difficult to extract the power that we feel we need,” Button said at Sochi.
“And that’s not me saying that, that’s Honda and that’s why the makeover for next year” is in the works, he explained.
Whether the 36-year-old Briton will actually get to race the 2017 McLaren-Honda, however, is another question.
It is rumoured the Anglo-Japanese collaboration may already have quietly taken the decision to pair Fernando Alonso with Belgian reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne for 2017.
Having made an impressive debut in injured Alonso’s place in Bahrain, the reigning GP2 champion admitted in Russia that returning to the reserve bench has been frustrating.
“I feel like I should be here doing the race,” 24-year-old Vandoorne, who kicked off his Super Formula campaign in Japan last weekend with a podium, told Brazil’s Globo at Sochi.
Vandoorne said being told late last year that Button was staying at McLaren alongside Alonso was already frustrating.
“I admit it was hard for me to hear that he had been chosen,” he said. “I won the GP2 title right here at Sochi and learned through the press that they (McLaren) had renewed with Jenson.
“It took a while to digest the news,” Vandoorne revealed.
“I went to the final (GP2) round in Abu Dhabi willing to do anything to win both races and show that I was the best option,” he revealed.
Button said on British television on Saturday that rumours he is switching to Williams for 2017 are premature, insisting he has not opened talks with any team yet.
But Vandoorne is now warning that he is determined to make his full-time debut next year.
“Yes,” he smiled. “I realise there is a lot of interest in me, but I have a contract with McLaren, they believe in me and I hope I can stay here.
“I want to start my career at a top team,” Vandoorne added.
He said he is not even fazed at the prospect of starting his race career alongside a driver as strong as Alonso.
“It wouldn’t worry me,” said Vandoorne. “There will be pressure to be a potentially winning racing team, but at the same time I will be facing it with a world champion.
“And if I do well my reputation will grow. I believe in my ability.”