Reposting here since the other RedBull and Honda PU thread is taken over by Mercedes fans. For the usual suspects, please don't reply to this post as it is a translation and nothing more. Mods, please keep this Honda only, thanks!
Aug 21 Interview
I've skipped the introductions and formalities and jumped straight to the main points.
Did Soichiro ever come up to you and say hey Asagi?
Asaki: Not directly to me, but once in my 20s he came by the F1 department and to my superior he put out his hand, and said youre doing such a fun job, you should be paying me to do it!
So Soichiro did just pop in all of a sudden?
Asaki: Early on I used to see this old guy in a shirt that stood out and I thought that must be Soichiro.
It seems like RedBull Honda has been bullish about the power unit prior to the season. It sounded like you guys have a lot of confidence, so that is why you made those comments that were seen quoted?
Asaki: Honestly, no, that isn't the case. When I joined F1 recently, we weren't in a position to compete with Mercedes or Ferrari and then last year, we came up to 2nd place. but 2nd isn't our goal. If we can get to 2nd, then we will then develop to reach 1st. That has been our stance. I'm not making groundless claims but regarding power output, we have closed the gap considerably. We thought that the amount of development we achieved would be enough to compete with Mercedes.
Yet, seeing the beginning of the season, we saw MB was very quick. and Red Bull,maybe because of the chassis, that they were slower in qualifying. After the first race, what was your honest feelings?
Asaki: Indeed, MB had made bigger gains than we had anticipated. As technology engineers, we wondered where that level-up came from, whether it was PU, or aero, or both probably. We started to analyze the data to get an idea of what position we were in the pecking order. We couldn't really tell after the 1st race, but after the 2nd and 3rd, our analysis started to show that they were ahead in certain places.
With regard to just PU, where do you think the Honda engine is in the pecking order
Asaki: Whether our analysis is correct, depending on aero and PU, we think we might be 2nd fastest. The qualify and race, it's different , but with qualifying, Mercedes is quite fast. Their straight line speed, it's probably not just due to PU strength. But the Honda pu has become good and is in a good place. We compete as a total package, the RedBull package isn't necessarily being left behind.
Regarding the banning of quali mode, with that said, having come close to MB, does this regulation, if instituted in SPA, will it be of benefit to Honda.
Asaki: Not exactly. Perhaps Ferrari, according to Leclerc and Haas saying that they don't have a quali mode, if this is true, then the Ferrari's and Alfa|Haas will likely benefit against the other MB powered cars and Renault cars. Red bull's competition is MB, and Honda may lose some pace in qualifying as well. Whether MBs mode is something they could only use in quali or decided to only use in quali, and if they weren't using in the race but could have, then they may be faster during the race. We are aware of this, but we will have to find out after we give it a try.
Can you tell you us, probably can't, how much Horsepower difference there is in your quali mode and normal race mode?
Asaki: I don't think I can tell you (laughs) MB has DAS, so we can't really tell if its just the PU difference. This year it's much more difficult to make conclusions from analysis.
So Hondas' qmode that you were using up until now, is it too much to use in the race
Asaki: Well, if we don't use it in the q, we can use it in the race, its damage control, and we feel its the same for MB. So we calculate the number of races and work backwards to see how much damage we can allow it to take. Like with Ferrari last year, they could not use their strongest modes in back to back races, we will have to see how this year's mode and damage will be depending on how other teams use their strongest modes.
If it is banned from SPA, what will your plan be to deal with it
Asaki: we won't say anything until after the directive is in place
What can you talk about?
Yamamoto: Well Hamilton has mentioned party mode right? Their q3 time is leaps faster than others. Like Asaki said, we have our own party mode. But if MB is a party, then ours is a small buffet in Utsunomiya (coy and jokingly saying eating gyoza).
So right now, the discussions are how should we best move forward with implementing the TD with the rules changes. There is a little gap there, but I don't really know since things haven't been decided. Honda might gain an advantage if Mercedes take a hit, or Mercedes might have better performance, we don't know yet
We haven't heard much about having to fuel save recently but can you tell us about that?
Asaki: Regarding F1?
yes, about having to lift and coast
Asaki: If it's faster to finish the race without lifting and coasting, we'll go for that since the fuel allowance has gone up, its not as often that coasting is necessary. The rules have made it possible to outright race.
How much fuel is allowed?
100kg/hr is it not? That is the regulation.
I see, so you guys push it to that limit
Yes since the maximum flow rate is set, we work around that number.
Probably can't tell us , when you finish a race, if the engine runs until the end without issue , how much percent of the time is it that you finish without any issues in the PU?
Asaki: Well, if we don't retire, and make it to the end of the race, then we can say it survived the race.
Oh, so the races that have been completed have resulted in no damage?
Haha no that isn't exactly the case, there are times when it does, we go back and forth with examining the damage and estimating the life. Behind the scenes, we sometimes might be a little restless . But if it makes it to the end, then that is enough, we managed to make it to the end.
So in a race, if a piston has abnormal combustion and fuel, if that were to happen, is there a countermeasure that can be used to save the engine?
Asaki: Yes, there are things you can do and can't do, but you can only have countermeasures to what you can predict might happen. We predict damage, so we have programmed in a way that the engine can protect itself or the driver can change settings.
So if that were to happen, obviously the mechanics and engineers have the same information in the 3 locations, and can see irregularities, who makes the call to deal with the issues as they arise?
Asaki: It's not like everyone knows everything. We have specialists who look in detail, and from Sakura there is a 0.3 sec delay and they will see things and recommend a mode or ask us to watch the numbers and conditions. Then the RB engineer will communicate it to the driver
So if there is no trouble, its ok, but when there is, can you tell us what causes you anxiety?
Asaki: Well, there is the retirement that may seem to be caused by the PU, that definitely causes anxiety when we see it happen.
Yes that's pretty normal and natural
It seemed that there was a bit of a gap , but it seems like RB honda has been chipping away the gap as well, is this year's current development outpacing MB?
Asaki: We don't have that this year, we can't develop because of homologation, of the original engine, and only reliability changes, that is the kind of season this year is. We can't do our step 2 engine. But data wise, we can edit the program and we think we can use that to battle. So Tanabe makes the call on how they should maximize the PU per event with the help of Red Bull.
Yamamotosan, do you think you have caught up?
Yamamoto: Hrmm, not really, maybe I'm not saying it right, but like Asaki says, with regard to PU data, MB is number one, Honda is 2. Ofcourse there is downforce and chassis difference that also makes a difference, but during FIA meetings, and their analysis, they have praised Honda's advancement and specifically, with the race, we're right there.
but like Asaki said, like any category, it's not just the PU, not just the car, including the driver, so in totality we are still behind MB. Like in Spain, Max can pressure HAM, but Ham can pull a gap and manage. Its like a weasel chase back and forth. Though what struck me in Spain was that the top 3 were like in a different class, and the rest were a lap behind.
So this does come down to Max's ability, and we have the performance to be able to split the Mercedes. Like Asaki mentions, we could only power up the engine once a year, so its really how well we can use the PU we have and optimizing the mapping for each race. We think we are more and more able to extract what we need to from the PU to split the Mercedes.
So it does seem like if you're right behind MB, if they make a mistake, you can capitalize, Hamilton is very fast however.
Yes MB is fast, Hamilton, and their team is top notch, but it still is a 3 horse race.
With aero, RB is doing a great job, they are trying hard, and we hate to lose, so we are working on it. We collaborate with them to make it best as possible.
With regard to driver mapping , do the two RB drivers use very different mappings? Do they use it differently? Asaki-san answer plz.
Asaki: To start, they start with the same base setting. But depending on driver preference with regard to accelerator, we adjust for the driver what they want.
So there is time delta between the two, do you see in the analysis where Max is so much faster than Alex?
Asaki: Yes there can be, but Alex isn't off, it's really just the acc pedal and mapping so he isn't that behind.
Yamamoto: we and RedBull were analyzing Max and Alex charts overlaid on top of each other, to see wheres the base speed at, who accelerates faster, and the team were breaking this down. Alex has places where he is faster than Max, but there are places where the charts cross and Max ends up faster, and there are minute differences in late braking.
Asaki: Its also the chassis and downforce setting. The two have slightly different configurations and cornering characteristics. So there are times when they are almost identical and times when they differ slightly.
The PU exhaust note is quite different from others, when lifting in corners, the purpurururu sound, can you tell us what that sound is for?
Asaki: who are you asking? Ofcourse, Asaki please.
Well, we have various control settings, so sounds do change with that
How do you think you will fair in Spa?
Asaki: MB will be strong there, but last time (in Spain) we did split them, so we won't let them make it an easy 1-2 for them. As long as we have that mentality, there is a chance we can win. So in that respect, we want to be right on their heels.
Yamamoto: Spa is a regular on the calendar, and Monza, RB suspension is good there, and Mugello for the triple header, its new to the calendar again, so in that regard, if there is gap from just being unfamiliar, we might be able to make up the gap and win.
From chat: Mr Asaki, how long will you stay at Honda, if you retire it seems Honda would be in trouble!
Asaki: Well i don't decide! The president will decide
Please stay and keep at it!
What is the difference between q mode and race mode?
Asaki: I'm not certain what others are doing exactly, but Honda, what we do is control the damage. We may run it hard knowing the amount of damage we might take.
We don't know if others are doing what they did last year, but we do it within the our limits. (commentator laughs, probably at a stab at Ferrari that someone in the chat made)
What do you think of the regulation and development freeze?
Asaki: I don't like it, its good for the customer teams don't have to spend as much on power units, but for the top teams competing to win its more expensive to make parts that can last longer instead of being able to replace them race to race.
Where can you win next?
Yamamoto: Usually, its Brazil and Mexico that RedBull fairs well, but unfortunately they aren't on the calendar this year. Actually I was at Red Bull yesterday talking to Christian, and we think Italy/Monza might be somewhere we can do well. Internally, we think we can be strong there. The rear wing is tiny there, low aero. If we bring the right package, it may be an exciting race to look forward to. And we are always excited to race every race.
Renault and Alfa have started selling team masks, will Red Bull Honda have a mask we can buy?
I can't say that these masks will pass in Japan, but looking at the price it's 40 euro.
It doesn't have a Red Bull logo, and they are made by the same company that makes Ferrari and Mclaren. They have their logos, but RedBull doesn't. RB may eventually, but so far i haven't asked. but I'll let the team know!
We want international shipping
Also Honda team gear, will that even be available to buy this year?
Honda uniform should be relesaed by Honda Comtech, so you can buy it eventually.
And please buy it!! There will be a long sleeve trainer/jacket too, and in addition to the shirts, there should be several items.
Please tell us your reaction to Max crashing in Hungary
Yamamoto: I was like "woah really are you serious?" Max was saying once in the spin he couldn't do anything. I think I commented back then also, that the chief mechanic told Max to go to the grid instead of going to the garage. We were listening in, and I think his response and decision making being quick was very impressive. Max was also worried will they actually make it. But they fixed it, the guys had duct tape on the car body and their arms etc. But the teamwork prevailed and just as impressively Max also delivered a strong race. We think their decision making was excellent and paid off.
With regard to the PU, where is Mercedes faster?
Asaki: Since fuel flow is set, it means their thermal efficiency is better. That's about it.
So that is where the advantage is?
Asaki: Well with the turbo, we think we were behind before, but we surpassed them last year, but we did notice in Austria this year that their turbo did become better. It's neck and neck, back and forth between us it seems.
With regard to PU, the thermal efficiency seems like MB is (able to) go a little over/at the limit longer. (pushing it)
Is rain an ally of the team right now?
Yamamoto: RB have two drivers who like to drive in the rain, and out of the 20 they probably are the ones that can make use of rain to their advantage. For fans, they might not like rain and prefer fair weather, but rain or shine, we don't think it makes a difference in the performance gap.
photographer guy: I like taking rain photos than sunny photos. but I can't go to a race and take any pictures! I want to go to a race and meet you Mr. Yamamoto! I will bring you japanese food (umeboshi plums)
Yamamoto: I'm grateful!
Also Tsunoda in F2, as a japanese driver does he have a chance? Matsushita also won, Yamamoto can you tell us about it?
Yamamoto: From watching Tsunoda trackside, I see he learns from every race and has high racing IQ. He had some good races and a nice points haul, both drivers have been doing well. Tsunoda is only 20, so in that respect, out of all the red bull jr drivers, he is the only one close to achieving his superlicense. So, out of the Japanese drivers, Tsunoda is the closest prospect to earning a F1 seat. His ranking is 4th in the championship currently, and if he can keep that to the end of the season, he should be good. But this years F2 field is close and its not strange to have any of them win. I have lunch with him and he is very positive, and also is earning good points. He can drive well on Spa and Monza, so we should see some good performances from him.
Maybe if Yamamotosan if you pull some strings maybe you can help him!
Can you tell us about which F1technology might make it into passenger car production?
Asaki: The technology that currently has a short history in passenger cars is the high output motor and battery. Current EVs tech value range, but eventually there will need to be higher performance batteries, so we think that is where production vehicles will benefit. It's on me to work with the automobile division to transfer the investment in F1 development back to passenger cars.
MB is doing so with their cars, doing a lean burn technology for passenger cars. Is that a hurdle?
Yes but its not impossible, and it will be an interesting internal challenge and also for the future of our planet.