The regulations surrounding the new-ish hybrid power units were locked down in development through a cumbersome token system since the formula changed back in 2014. Teams were challenged to only develop certain parts and limited quantities of their power units over the course of the formula regulation period culminating in a fully developed power unit that was mature and on balance with other teams. That didn’t happen, they had very low sound levels, they were slower than the previous V8’s and the fan reaction wasn’t positive regardless of how road relevant manufacturers tried to explain they were.
To those ends, Formula 1 has changed the regulations and allowed for open development in 2017 and that’s good news to all engine manufactures but specifically Honda who were slightly hamstrung as a late entry to the new hybrid regulation and had restrictions that they had to argue against. Namely that they weren’t going to be able to develop their engine at all after the first season. Now they can develop at will…and they have!
“For 2017, the Honda engine architecture and layout have been altered to serve both for performance and packaging needs,” McLaren technical director Tim Goss said.
“The new power unit takes much of the learning from the past two seasons, but has been specifically redesigned for this season.”
The new 2017 regulations feature wider tires, more aero and perhaps more power depending on who gets the combinations right. The increased speed of the car may challenge the drivers who’ve had a much different driving style in the last three seasons with the hybrid, power units and slower speeds.
“As the new cars will be going faster, some of 2016’s ‘corners’ will be classified as ‘straights’,” he said.
“But because they (the drivers) will be going through them faster, they’ll be subjected to more G-forces — and that’s still tiring on the body.”
What’s interesting is the cornering in the current format chassis and power unit combination versus what teams expect in 2017. Much higher speeds through corners will be a departure from how they have been approaching their driving in 2014-2016.
Perhaps Honda will get the ratios correct and while they struggled with their tightly-packaged size zero engine, a re-packaging and re-profiling of the engine and hybrid system may reduce/remove some of the reliability issues they have had and increase pace. At least that’s the game plan for 2017.
Hat Tip: McLaren’s description of the 2017 regulation changes.