Its press officers said on Tuesday Yasuhisa Arai, the boss who managed to keep smiling through McLaren's worst season ever in 2015, would step down at the end of February, to be replaced by Yusuke Hasegawa.
They said McLaren had been informed only after a statement detailing a wider management restructuring at Honda was issued by company headquarters on Tuesday.
The move was aimed at bringing youth and diversity to the management team.
Hasegawa has previous experience in Formula One from Honda's time with the BAR and Jordan teams in the 1990s and 2000s.
“I need to catch up with what is going on,” Hasegawa said during testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya. There are a lot of good people working very closely with McLaren so I don't think it will be a big problem. Compared to Arai-san, I think I am a very conservative person.”
Arai's optimism seemed at odds with reality at times during the year as McLaren endured record grid penalties because of repeated engine failures. Media reports suggested that the team wanted him replaced. The 2015 seasion was the first of Honda's new partnership with McLaren, which has not won a race since 2012 and finished ninth of 10 teams.
ON THE BEACH
Arai, who will retire in 2017, said he would help Hasegawa settle in for as long as he deemed necessary before stepping aside completely.
“I will do my best to support him,” he said. “He has a different personality, the approach is a little bit different. This year we know how big the gap is to the top teams...so we don't say such optimistic words. More realism.”
In a joking reference to a photograph of McLaren driver Fernando Alonso that went viral on social media last season, the departing boss said he looked forward to sunning himself on a beach in a deckchair when retired.
When Alonso's Honda engine failed in practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Spaniard found a folding chair and lay back trackside sunning himself with his feet resting on his helmet.
The picture swiftly spread around Twitter with fans imagining other places Alonso would rather be.
Original source: Honda replacing F1 engine boss