by H. Mayor – photo: f1.com | There is no other union in F1 nowadays as convulsive as the one made up by McLaren and Honda. Despite being contractually bounded until 2021, the nightmarish season that they are going through together with their dreadful MCL32 engine as the main culprit, has been pointing out for a few months to the possibility of an early divorce. This possibility became very real indeed just a few weeks ago when suddenly the otherwise reckless option of changing engine suppliers in the middle of the season seemed to become a plausible option.
As things stand now however, both the British scuderia and the Japanese manufacturer are running out of alternatives and it seems increasingly likely that the marriage, as unfortunate as it is, is gonna have to continue for now. Ferrari and Mercedes have both confirmed to McLaren that they will not supply them with any equipment and therefore the only viable option remaining would have been Renault (who already works for Red Bull and Toro Rosso). Honda of course has declared its interest in seeing their common project through to the end of the contract as their only chance of continuing in Formula 1 at all might be in Woking.
Behind the official statements given by both parties over the last few months we have been able to glimpse an intense network of negotiations with third parties in search of alternatives. Honda started conversations with Toro Rosso and Sauber to start supplying them with engines. The former however finally decided to continue with Renault and the latter has signed up with Ferrari.
The inside story
The bosses at Honda have expressed their regret publicly for not having successfully reached any of the above proposed agreements and have highlighted how positive it would have been for their project to have had the chance of contrasting different data and tests. The inside story behind their public regrets is the very real chance of being left out with no alternatives if McLaren decides to pull out. Currently they can brandish that four year contract in McLaren’s face as their sole argument to remain together as the British have made clear their disappointment with the Japanese manufacturer this season. Breaking that contract would suppose a hard blow for Honda with their image already tarnished in more ways than just the strictly sporting one.
The latest improvements introduced in what is probably the worst and least reliable engine on the grid haven’t been enough to content McLaren. Honda insists that they will have a powerful and reliable engine ready for 2018 and there is a September deadline to develop a completely new engine over which to build a whole new machine. Meanwhile, the twice champion Fernando Alonso has already said he might even consider switching disciplines altogether if he doesn’t have a competitive car soon.