Japanese Grand Prix – Honda say they are encouraged by the data produced by their latest specification engine, and aren’t overly concerned by the fuel system issue that hampered track time for Pierre Gasly in FP2.
Honda have re-introduced their latest Spec 3 power unit for both Toro Rosso drivers this weekend, having initially trialed it during Friday’s track time in Russia last weekend. Rumours suggest the new power unit could be worth roughly half a second of lap time improvement over the Spec 2, so it’s no surprise that Honda are doing their best to get it fettled in for their home race at Suzuka this weekend.
Both Toro Rosso drivers were able to lap in the mid 1:30s in the FP2 session, just over two seconds off the pace of fastest man Lewis Hamilton, although Pierre Gasly’s practice session was compromised. A fuel system error on his car meant he sat out a large section of FP2 while his mechanics raced to get him back on track. Succeeded in doing so, the timing of his return to track meant he had to negotiate traffic that had moved on to race simulation, but he managed to sneak in a laptime that was good enough for P13 on the board.
According to Toyoharu Tanabe from Honda, the new engine is a big step forward: “The latest version of our PU, which we first used on Friday in Sochi, has produced encouraging data today. It’s a big improvement and validates the tuning work we carried out on this new PU since Russia. Unfortunately, Pierre lost some track time in FP2 with a fuel system issue, but at this point in the weekend, it’s not too critical.”
Pierre Gasly was also smiling afterwards,despite the issue: “It was a good morning as I was able to do a few laps and get a good feeling with the car, which was positive. We had some really good data, but unfortunately we ran into some trouble this afternoon so we didn’t complete many laps in FP2. I was only able to do one push lap for performance and then a couple of laps for the long run, which means I didn’t learn too much. It’s good that Brendon had a clean session so we can use his data to improve the performance and get a good result for Qualifying tomorrow.”
Toro Rosso’s Chief Race Engineer is Jonathan Eddolls, who said that the important aspects of the Honda’s performance factors have improved: “The major focus was on the re-introduction of the latest PU spec from Honda. They worked very hard on the dyno by improving the mapping and calibrations since Russia and these changes have all worked as expected. The drivability and performance of the latest PU have improved and we want to thank Honda for this.”
“Unfortunately, this afternoon’s session was not so fruitful for Pierre, as an issue within the fuel system developed on the last fire up before hitting the track, which required us to change parts within the cell. Normally, this would have taken at least two hours, but the mechanics did a fantastic job to get the parts changed in record time and allow Pierre to get out for a run at the end of the session. Obviously, this compromised it a lot as he was trying to set a fast lap with DRS while all other cars were on their race simulations. Even so, we found a small window in the traffic so Pierre could get a feel of the balance. The car is looking relatively competitive, so we will work hard tonight to ensure we have smooth running from FP3 onwards.”