After the hugely successful partnership in the 80s and 90s, McLaren and Honda decided to have another crack at a Formula One partnership. However, things did not go as expected for the team. The past 3 seasons have been nothing but a tortuous affair for the Woking squad. In the first year of marriage, they finished 9th in the standings. In the second year, they made significant progress as they managed to finish 6th in the constructors championship. However this season, it was a case of one step forward, ten steps back. Last week after criticism from both ends, they decided to part ways at the end of the 2017 season.
McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier said “When you look at the last three years it’s been a proper disaster for us in terms of credibility and getting new sponsors, and then you have to take the long-term view: in the next five years I am absolutely sure that we will go back to where McLaren belongs. And with this bouncing back we get our credibility back and it will rebuild our sponsor portfolio. It might take two to three years. We are ninth in the championship – with a top engine I think we would be fourth right now and just on the FOM money we could cover the engine side, so it will not be a big risk on the monetary side. Thanks to the shareholders who have been brave enough to take a sporting choice and not hurt McLaren. They could have said, ‘Let’s wait until Honda wakes up’.”
Boullier said that the British marquee first began to reconsider their partnership in early 2017, during pre-season testing. At that point of time, it was clear that whatever progress Honda made in 2016 had been forgotten. Boullier said that they tried to work with Honda to tackle the issues but by summer, they knew it was time for a change. He conceded that despite the lack of results, the decision was not easy.
He continued “On paper everything looked right. Just the way it’s been done was not right, obviously. Luckily we managed to make it an amicable settlement and they understood that all the investment that they have made, they should get a reward from that at some stage. We can’t wait – but they can get the reward with somebody else. I am so glad that they have decided to stay in Formula 1 and commit to another team. Personally I feel a bit sad that it didn’t work, but these have been [a] very intense three years.”