Sebastian Vettel praised Japanese engine manufacturer Honda for returning to the sport with McLaren, and expressed his firm belief that the it will overcome its early season reliability problems.
Honda encountered innumerable reliability issues throughout the preseason testing with McLaren, with the MP4-30 beset by a range of technical gremlins and forced to run well down on power in order to reduce the risk of engine failures.
The silver cars occupied the back row of the grid in qualifying for last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, again forced to run on reduced power to keep a potential failure at bay.
Even that couldn’t stop Kevin Magnussen’s engine from blowing up while the Dane was making his way to the starting grid, however, Jenson Button in the other McLaren was able to limp his car to the finish, two laps down in eleventh (and last) place.
“It’s great to see that we have a new competitor in the game with Honda,” Vettel, who finished third on his Ferrari debut, said after the race.
“I think they have been very brave to face that challenge, even though now the price they’re paying is very high, but I’m sure they will come back. I think everyone has, more or less, been through that process with the exception of [Mercedes] last year, so it seems to be part of the game.”
Sunday’s grid featured just 15 cars, with Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull Racing entry joining Magnussen’s McLaren in also stopping on his out-lap to the grid with a gearbox failure; Williams driver Valtteri Bottas ruled out with a back injury, while the Manor Marussia cars failed to run at all thanks to software problems.
For Vettel, that was perhaps a reflection of how complex Formula 1’s current regulations are.
“They [the spectators] want to see the cars and if the cars break before even starting the race that’s not right, but what can I say?” he added.
“It’s a difficult challenge; it is complicated, maybe got a bit too complicated, but for now it is what it is. The people still enjoy it so we need to do the best to keep it up.”
Image via McLaren