It was bad news for the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team this week as both Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari ruled themselves out of helping the Woking based squad by supplying them with engines next year.
McLaren, whose struggles with the reliability and power output of the Honda engine has continued for a third season, were believed to be seriously considering breaking ties with the Japanese manufacturer, with improvements and solutions to their performance deficit not looking likely any time soon.
Although discussions have been held with other manufacturers as to the likelihood of a supply deal, it has become clear to McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown, that neither of the top two engine suppliers are willing to pass any advantage the Woking team’s way, as he explained in an interview with Sky Sports recently.
“We’re a great team, McLaren has shown the ability to win races and championships, but I think several other teams enjoy seeing us where we are today.
“They fear we can go back to being a threat, a fear which is understandable.”
The only other current option on the table for McLaren, assuming they do decide to split with Honda, would be to switch to Renault power. However, although this scenario has not been put off the shelf just yet, it is believed the French manufacturer are not looking to add to their customer supply chain.
The F1 summer break is almost upon us, and after the Hungarian Grand Prix in one week’s time, there will be a three-week time out for the teams. It is during this time that Brown has stipulated McLaren will need to have made their minds up on whether to continue on with the Honda partnership, or look elsewhere.
“We’ve spoken with Honda about a variety of different scenarios, we ultimately think that Honda can get the job done, they have in the past.
“We need to make sure the development comes at a faster pace. We’re starting to work on our 2018 car now and you can only go so far before you need to know the architecture of what you’re doing.
“So I think around the summer time, which obviously isn’t far away, we need to finalise what we’re doing with Honda moving forward.
“We can’t continue to be uncompetitive – that’s not what McLaren race for. It’s been three years, so we need to see some drastic power adjustments or some different ways to get there.”
It is believed driver Fernando Alonso is pushing for answers sooner rather than later, most likely so he can make plans for his own future, whether that be with or without McLaren, because a driver of his calibre can only languish at the back end of the grid for so long.
“We, like Fernando, want to be winning races and being on the podium and in the current state we can’t do that – so some things need to change.”
Holding onto the double world champion will be a key objective for McLaren, whether they can realistically do that if things remain as they are, is another prospect entirely.
(RACHEL HACK)Octane Photographic Ltd