McLaren-Honda is struggling this season, probably more than even in their history. They have had some glorious years but this year they are so uncompetitive that websites like hasmclarenhondawonyet.com are popping up, reducing the legendary partnership to a joke. There had to be various discussions of a split behind closed doors and a statement on it was long overdue.
McLaren racing director,Eric Boullier, recently announced that the widely speculated split is on the table. McLaren still maintains that they will continuously work on the solution but Boullier also indicated that they are keeping the lawyers ‘in mind’ for working out the split details. He adds- “Before we go to the lawyer, we are in the intermediate zone, trying to find solutions. I’m spending my time between England and Japan trying to influence them, but it’s difficult.”
In a very diplomatic statement, he adds- “They’re (Honda) going to get there, but instead of three years as you’d expect it could be six or seven years, and in the meantime you have to survive. As long as we progress it’s ok, but then we backtracked so it became more complicated to motivate and to convince ourselves that we will get there.” which is just another way of saying, “We are running out of patience and waiting three more years might break it. Up your game or we are out”.
Under these conditions one has to wonder, if not Honda, then who? The best bet is Mercedes. McLaren has a good enough history with them and they have great power units. But we do have to note that why McLaren and Mercedes split. As the years went by, even McLaren-Mercedes drivers started to struggled with race pace. It is also widely believed that Mercedes wanted more control over a Formula 1 team and McLaren was surely not going to give them any more than they already had. That relationship tensed up more and more as years rolled by till the point when the split was inevitable.
The era of McLaren-Mercedes that people witnessed at the time of Mika Hakkinen or Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, was a great one. But it is hard to imagine if Mercedes will ship their own premium engine to McLaren. They are highly protective of it. Honda as an engine supplier is known to sell different models of engines to different teams in the past. So one might not be surprised if Mercedes does the same and passes on an inferior power unit as compared to their own to McLaren. Though this move may be blocked by Ross Brawn in the interest of keeping the sport more competitive, we have to keep in mind that every theory is speculative and there are many more factors that combine to form reality.
In all this mess, what are Honda’s best options? The deal with Sauber definitely confirmed their stay in Formula 1 even if McLaren-Honda decides to split. We said before that right now small teams like Sauber are Honda’s best bet. But after Sauber, there are no future buyers lining up. Their current stint with McLaren is no advertisement. After all this, a very interesting thought can come to mind. Honda can try to build their own Formula 1 team or hope that a new team comes along who will want their power units. All in all, this situation can lead to various paths and only tie will tell which one turns into reality.
Formula 1, Cars and Pseudo-Engineer. This Aayush is a human.