Gilles Simon, the French engine expert, who has helped teams such as Renault and Ferrari in the past has reportedly left the McLaren Honda team, with whom he was working as a consultant.
Reports suggest that he is on gardening leave and a Honda spokesman confirmed on Monday that the 58-year old’s contract could end “some time this year”.
Prior to joining Honda in 2013, Simon had worked as Ferrari’s engine boss during the successful Jean Todt era. After Ferrari, Simon worked for the FIA but he was also known to be designing an engine for the now defunct company PURE.
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It is rumored that the Frenchman was not happy with his advice being ignored by the Japanese engine manufacturer. This apparently, is the primary reason for his exit from the McLaren Honda team.
The Japanese engine company, who plans to supply a second F1 team by the 2018 season, had a disappointing start to this year’s pre-season tests in Barcelona in late February.
The McLaren Honda team was forced to use as many as five power units during the four day tests at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The drivers – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were able to finish full-day testing only on days 3 and 4, as their test was interrupted by engine problems on the first two days.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admitted that “There is a bit more work to be done in Japan to investigate why we had those issues: issues that we absolutely did not expect to have - and for sure neither did Honda… It is fixable, but it was not the plan to have these issues. They are not really serious, as there are no fundamental issues with the design."
The drivers and the entire team will be hoping that Boullier’s assessment is correct and that Honda is able to rectify the errors from the engine by the start of the season in Australia on March 24.
While it is not clear if Simon had anything to do with the early troubles faced by Honda’s engines, but now, when the Japanese company is racing to correct the errors in the power units, it will not be able to draw on the Frenchman’s expertise.
These upheavals at the start of the season could have many repercussions throughout the year.
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