Sat on a sofa outside the Honda building, Masashi Yamamoto focuses on the whole scene, as he contemplates the big news that has just been announced: Honda is staying in Formula 1, joining forces with Toro Rosso for the next three years.
"It’s the challenge of performance and technology that drives us. So giving up halfway makes no sense, it’s not our mentality. We’re here to progress and grow. It’s very important for us.”
The switch to Toro Rosso comes after mutually agreeing to end the McLaren partnership, following three challenging years. Talks about the future of that partnership were finalised after the Italian Grand Prix and Yamamoto says both sides worked hard to find a solution before opting to part ways.
“Obviously Honda would have preferred to stay in partnership with McLaren, but we were not able to reach the performance and reliability targets set by the team. This created tension between us and unfortunately separation was the result. In the world of Formula 1 it’s important to get the results, it’s part of the deal.”
While the McLaren partnership will end after this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Honda is determined to make its Formula 1 project a success. With new engine regulations coming in 2021, there is still plenty of scope to continue the recent progress made with the power unit concept introduced at the start of this year.
“The regulations go on until 2020 so we still have three years and we want to show our improvements in the technology. We want to show Honda’s potential,” Yamamoto insists. “That is very important for us, to let the world see how we will progress and how we can make it a success.”
Toro Rosso is now the team with which Honda will chase that success. As the newest power unit supplier in Formula 1, it joins forces with one of the youngest teams on the grid, with both sides of the partnership keen to grow together.
For Yamamoto, these aligned approaches will prove beneficial, as Toro Rosso-Honda takes on the not insignificant task of preparing for 2018.
“Toro Rosso and Honda will start working together immediately and for the coming years. However, before that we have the rest of the 2017 season to complete with McLaren, so a good communication between us is still very important, as well as a good performance in the remaining races."
The new works partnership will receive a fresh approach, and Yamamoto is enthusiastic about Honda’s future in Formula 1 as it moves into a new era.
“Compare that to Toro Rosso, it is a company that is growing. It is very important for us to work in partnership together, heading towards the same goal. So for us we are very much looking forward to being able to work closer."