McLaren's engineering director Matt Morris says Honda's change in engine architecture for 2017 should allow the team to make quick progress with its new car, the MCL32.
Honda used the abolition of the token system over the winter to redesign its power unit for 2017 and is believed to be following a similar route to the all-conquering Mercedes split turbo design. Honda boss Yusuke Hasegawa would not go into specifics but hopes the changes that have been made allow McLaren to compete with the biggest names in the sport.
"We have spent a very busy winter at Honda," he said. "The token system has been removed and that meant we could implement every idea for the engine, which was restricted in previous years. Actually it is the area that we wanted to change from the original engine in 2015 to extract more power and obviously the car was changing dramatically, so we wanted to redesign our engine to fit the car and behave with the car much better.
"So we have modified our engine with a much lower centre of gravity and lighter weight. However, it means we have a great challenge for the development, so I am very proud our team members have made a great job for this season. Of course we are not making any promises for this season, but our aim is to make the progress and catch up the frontrunners so that we keep pushing to make more progress."
Morris explained that McLaren and Honda have worked closer this year to ensure both chassis and engine benefit from the changes.
"We've change a lot of the layout of the engine and that's not been easy, because a lot of the key architecture has changed but that's something we've done working with them very closely and we've done these things together both to suit the chassis and suit the engine. So we all feel we've got an engine architecture that is right and is capable of challenging the best.
"In terms of where we are in absolute performance it's difficult to know. Are we going to rock up with an engine that beats Mercedes at the start of the year? Probably not. But if we can close the gap like we have been doing the last two years then I think that's a good step forward. I think the good thing looking forward to the rest of the year with the regulation change and the token system being dropped it allows us to develop the engine a lot through the year. So I'm sure what we start with in Barcelona next week is absolutely not going to be where we finish the end of the year. So, again, that's going to be an exciting development period for us.
"With the base architecture of the engine which I feel now is where it needs to be, a bit like we do with the chassis we've got a good architecture there and we can build on the performance -- hopefully quickly -- throughout the season."
In terms of raw power, Mercedes and Renault have both hinted at big steps forwards this year. Asked if Honda now had a power output similar to Mercedes at the end of last year, Hasegawa added: "Not at the moment I think because I don't know how much gain Mercedes is hoping to make. But of course we are aiming to achieve the top level of the PU, which is Mercedes at this moment, but we don't know how much power they are making now. But I am feeling that we are not far behind them, but I think we will catch up with them [where Mercedes was] at the beginning of the season."