Fernando Alonso was among those who were caught by surprise by Honda’s announcement of the departure of F1 chief Yasuhisa Arai on Tuesday.
“I heard it at noon when I was jumping in the car,” said the Spaniard.
“Let’s see what changes this brings with it.”
Actually, Arai’s exit should not be a surprise, given the woeful performance of the new McLaren-Honda works collaboration last year.
“I fulfilled my task with Honda,” Arai-san claimed on Tuesday.
“I will do my best to support him,” he added, referring to his successor, Yusuke Hasegawa.
“He has a different personality,” said Arai. Hasegawa agreed that he is “more conservative” than his optimistic predecessor.
Arai added: “This year we know what the gap is to the top teams, so we don’t say such optimistic words. More realism.”
Hasegawa is not a complete newcomer to F1, having worked on the earlier engine supply projects with Jordan and BAR.
“But of course,” he admitted, “the technology is now completely different.
“I need to catch up but there are a lot of good people already with McLaren so I don’t think it will be a big problem.”
Hasegawa said Arai should not be blamed for the failure of Honda’s F1 return so far.
“The problem is not the new technology,” he said, “just that formula one is very complicated, and the competition is very high.
“Just to survive is not easy, so to get ahead of the other teams is extremely difficult. But we already knew that it would not be easy.”
It means Hasegawa will not simply tear up Arai’s 2016 plan.
“Maybe sooner or later I will be able to implement some new ideas, but hopefully with the plan we have we can improve rapidly,” he said.
It might be said that Arai’s refusal to look outside Honda for assistance might be one reason for his exit, but Hasegawa insisted: “In fact, this year we have recruited a lot of experts, including from Europe.
“Unfortunately, because Honda has traditionally communicated in Japanese, it is hard for Europeans to adapt to our culture.”
He said the goal for 2016 is to “regularly” be in Q3.
Alonso got his first taste of Honda’s 2016 engine on Tuesday, declaring that it is better than last year’s.
“But that was clear even before the test,” he told Spanish reporters. “Our deficit to the others was so great that we had to improve.
“I think this year we will improve, and even more for 2017. I really believe that only McLaren-Honda, with its potential, can beat something as dominant as Mercedes is at the moment,” Alonso added.