Honda on Thursday made a major change at the top of its Formula One engine supply operation, parting ways with chief Yusuke Hasegawa and eliminating his position.
With the Japanese automaker’s supply of engines to the McLaren F1 team finishing at the end of the 2017 season, Hasegawa is being replaced by Toyoharu Tanabe, who will take up the newly created position of F1 technical director.
After a difficult three-season relationship with Honda, McLaren in September negotiated a release from its contract, with the team signing up to field Renault engines for 2018. Around the same time, Honda announced a deal to supply engines to the Toro Rosso team for next season.
Katsuhide Moriyama, chief officer for brand and communication operations, said in a statement that “Honda will continue its challenges so that fans can enjoy seeing Toro Rosso-Honda competing at the top level without further delay.”
In creating the new role, Honda said it is splitting the responsibilities formerly held by Hasegawa, with Tanabe responsible for “directing the team at the spot of racing and testing.”
The BBC reported that the team’s overall boss will be Yasuaki Asaki, with the team news release saying “an operating officer in charge of HRD Sakura will oversee research and development and the overall operation of races and testing,” without naming Asaki in the position.
After re-entering F1 with McLaren in 2015 with high hopes of recapturing former glories, Honda’s investment yielded very little in terms of success.
In three seasons, the team’s best finish in the constructors’ championship was sixth in 2016, but in a disastrous 2017 campaign the team dropped back to finish next to last with engine unreliability and underperformance plaguing the McLaren-Honda cars.
The team’s two-time world champion Fernando Alonso managed a best finish of sixth in Hungary and his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne had seventh-place finishes in Singapore and Malaysia.