Honda has revealed that its much anticipated return to F1 will take place at Jerez next year.
The Japanese manufacturer, which is returning to F1 as an engine supplier having walked away at the end of 2008, joins forces with McLaren, rekindling a legendary partnership that became one of the most successful and powerful in the history of the sport during the 1980s and ’90s.
However, whilst there will be simulations in the coming weeks the much anticipated new engine will not take to the track until the opening test of 2015, scheduled to take place at Jerez in February.
"We are absolutely within our development plan," the company's motorsport boss, Yasuhisa Arai, told the official F1 website. "Our engine - or more precisely our power unit - is ready for a whole system check, but without the chassis. It will still need more time to bring the power unit and chassis together and then be able to run checks with the complete car.
"In the next couple of weeks we will run simulations and at the beginning of next year we will start to run on the track - very likely at Jerez," he continued. "That will very likely be the first time to show the whole car, the Honda engine and the McLaren chassis - the Honda McLaren. Right now there are no plans to collect data during the rest of 2014. Jerez will be the first time.
Asked what particular challenges Honda is facing, he admitted: "One is to develop an environmentally-friendly powertrain for a competitive racing situation. It is in the DNA of Honda to be competitive - competitiveness is very important for us to live up to the racing spirit that is fundamental within Honda."
Sticking to the green theme, Arai admitted that the new, environmentally friendly, F1 is what attracted Honda back to the sport.
"Yes, it definitely was one reason for Honda to come back into Formula One, but there was also the fact that the lap times compared to the old engines are very similar, and that means that we are talking about a technology that is very advanced. You can match the speed of the old engines, but with much smarter - and resource-saving - technology."
He also reiterated that in its first season back in F1, Honda will only partner with one team, McLaren.
"In 2015 we don't have the plan to supply any team other than McLaren. In 2016 or after, if some teams or partners ask us to supply them too, we will take a look at that situation. But even in 2016 McLaren will be our main partner in F1. And even if we supply other teams from 2016 onwards our main focus will always be to win - to make the engine better through more data - and not necessarily to look at a return on investment. If you win that comes automatically."
As Mercedes continues to dominate in 2014, Arai insists the German manufacturer doesn't intimidate him. "I have confidence that we will match Mercedes," he says.
As for Ferrari and Renault...
"I think that the two other engine suppliers will recover next season," he says, "I strongly believe that. And we will be there too."
Asked why he thinks they are struggling he replied: "You can only make conclusions when you have all the different data on the table. I can imagine that Mercedes found the perfect balance between their chassis and their power unit and that the others didn't find that balance. So we work together with McLaren as one team - because this is the only way to go."
Finally, asked if he believed Honda threw in the towel too early in 2008, Ross Brawn subsequently buying the team and taking the 2009 title, Arai says: "When we left F1 in 2008 our engineers believed that our technology, our engineering methods, were correct - and we definitely believe that this is still valid.
"Formula One is a very important part of our strategy," he continues, "and winning is very important for Honda. We want to raise the awareness of our brand and I trust - I am a firm believer - that we will win races next year. And that will send out a very positive signal for our brand on a global basis."