What can be said about the McLaren Honda team? After dropping Mercedes as an engine supplier and switching to Honda in 2015, every McLaren fan expected the Woking team to emulate the yesteryear success of the previous McLaren Honda partnership. However, the fact that McLaren had some scope for development in 2015 because Honda had just entered the sport and were granted leeway to develop the car. Unfortunately for them, the car was 120 bhp slower than the Mercedes. Honda and McLaren tried to reassure the Formula One fraternity by saying that they had the 2016 season in mind, but the 2016 season fared no better.
The 2016 season again yielded a fruitless season in terms of wins and podiums and the patience of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button wore thin. One of the few advancements that season was in the reliability department. But it wasn’t a total disaster for the black and red machine, there was an air of consistency with at least one car in the points, both cars on a really good day in the office. Alonso even managed a 5th place in Austin. Overall, in the constructors championship they finished a respectable 6th. Was the McLaren-Honda partnership finally starting to click?
Maybe not… According to Fernando Alonso, the MCL32 is 30-40kph slower on the straights. added to that, are the ridiculous number of engines eaten up by the black and orange machine. In the first test itself, McLaren Honda used up at least 4 engines after being plagued by oil pump issues and electrical issues. the total number of laps achieved this testing session was a little over half of the number of laps they did in 2016. “We have only one problem, which is Honda. There is no reliability and there is no power,” added Alonso. Now a new twist to the tale has been added, rumour has it that McLaren are seriously considering breaking away from Honda and re-signing with Mercedes. The Daily Mail reported that the split could happen as early as the end of this season. “McLaren have a long-term partnership with Honda, until 2024, but it is understood there are break clauses on both sides, If McLaren wish to cut free, they could do so at the end of the year.” According to Sky Sports, the problems are occurring due to severe vibrations in the engine which is causing the cars to ‘shake itself into breaking down’.
BBC even said that Mercedes board and motorsport director Toto Wolff was open minded about supplying McLaren once again. But McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has rubbished the claims that the split may occur. The only other team that they were actually faster than, were Sauber, who are running 2016 engines. With the season opener just a week away, what can McLaren and Honda do to salvage this season?