‘Honda could be on cusp of getting it right’

Former Honda director Otmar Szafnauer has suggested McLaren could regret pulling the plug on the Japanese manufacturer if they choose to do so.

Honda are on borrowed time with McLaren, but Szafnauer, who is now chief operating officer at Force India, believes that the partnership could work if the right personnel are there to help.

"What I found was that the guys who had worked in the third generation project [from the late 1990s] who had come from the second generation [1980s] had very good knowledge of F1 and what it takes," said Szafnauer via Autosport.

"They were able to put the programme together in order to compete at the highest level.

"I remember when Takeo Kiuchi, who was [Ayrton] Senna and [Alain] Prost's race engineer came in, within two or three years we had the lightest and most powerful V10 engine.

"He knew what it took it and he did it. We ended up with 968bhp and 88kg, which was just a little bit lighter than the BMW and a little bit more powerful.

"What they are lacking this time around is that experience of what it takes.

"[F1 project chief Yusuke] Hasegawa was there [previously], but he was a controls engineer, and I am not sure they have the strength in depth of experienced F1 engineers working on the project.

"Back then they had loads of them and they knew what it took. If you don't have that at the beginning, it takes time to get that.

"But they are on their way of getting that experience of what it takes, and it would be a shame for them to part company with McLaren as opposed to sticking it out and making it good."

Honda have continued to keep their main factory in Japan, with McLaren still predominantly working in Woking and Szafnauer reckons that logistical problem is a bit of a myth.

"It wasn't a problem before," he added. "All we did in the UK was assemble the engines.

"All the design, development and manufacturing happened in Japan and it didn't have an impact.

"You need to understand the task and how difficult it is."

Szafnauer then warned McLaren not to rush into any hasty decision as it could come back to haunt them in the years to come.

"I was saying to someone recently that maybe in two years time when Honda, who are very capable, get it all together, we will wish they [McLaren] had switched to Mercedes!" he said.

"You cannot be too quick to judge and make a kneejerk reaction.

"They could be just on the cusp of getting it right."

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