The departure from Honda’s F1 project of Yasuhisa Arai had tongues wagging in the Barcelona paddock this week.
Rumours have been swirling that McLaren chiefs Eric Boullier and Ron Dennis pressed for his departure, but the official version is that he is simply set to ‘retire’.
“Arai-san’s 60th birthday and Honda’s pension policy is that when you turn 60, you retire,” Boullier is quoted by Finland’s MTV.
“It was a long-term plan that he would retire,” the Frenchman insisted.
That statement, however, surprised some, with one paddock observer admitting: “Arai is really 60?”
And Honda’s apparent ‘long-term plan’ also appeared not to square with comments made by Arai’s successor, Yusuke Hasegawa, as he said: “I did not expect that I would be joining the team.
“Last year I followed the F1 project by watching the races on TV.”
After a promising start, McLaren-Honda had a woeful day as the first Barcelona test ended on Thursday, with Fernando Alonso “disappointed” to do just 3 laps.
But the Anglo-Japanese collaboration will return to action on Friday and Saturday, having booked the Circuit de Catalunya for exclusive ‘filming’ runs.