McLaren look to ditch Honda ASAP


 A depressed looking Peter Pedromou (MCL32 designer) behind McLaren garage Barcelona

Having spent quite some time in the paddock over the years, at times the wild rumours that circulate at times among the F1 folk – really do beggar belief. And today’s is up there with the best of them.

There’s a whisper beginning to circulate late morning on day 3 of winter testing here in Barcelona which suggests McLaren have spoken with another engine manufacturer about a supply of power units for THIS YEAR.

In reality, the logistics of this kind of move are close to unthinkable – and there would have to be performance penalty release clauses in the deal McLaren have with Honda at present for this to even be possible. Yet in a way this rumour is hardly surprising given the woeful start to pre-season testing Honda have made again.

Interestingly, because of a recent rule change – were McLaren to ditch Honda, one of the other three engine manufacturers would be forced by the FIA to supply the Woking based team. There are though lead time clauses written into the regulation which mean the MacHonda would survive as a partnership for at least the first flyaway races.

Importing a new engine into the MCL32 would not be too physically problematic since the hybrid turbo power unit mountings are fixed by FIA regulations – specifically with a view to making engine supplies easily transferable.

However, the driveability of a MacMerc or Mac-Renault would most likely be ugly – but then again Ross Brawn pulled it off in 2009 with a late switch to Mercedes power when Honda pulled out of Formula One.

And we all remember how that turned out.

One reason an impending MacHonda divorce is unlikely before the end of the season, is due to the $100m or so sponsorship McLaren is presently receiving from Honda.

The rumour allegedly finds its source in one Fernando Alonso – and if THAT is true – its probably just the Spaniard venting his spleen in frustration at what may be for him another year of GP3 racing against other drivers in F1 machinery.

At the time of publication, McLaren have managed 25 laps this morning with a best time some 4 seconds off the pace of the Mercedes.


Alonso tells media ‘new cars’ make drivers “even less important”


21 responses to “McLaren look to ditch Honda ASAP

    • I still find it ironic that Alonso has outlived Ron Dennis and Yasuhisa Arai at McLaren; Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo at Ferrari; and Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds at Renault. Wherever he goes, heads seem to start falling… And if history is any guide, Alonso is off by the end of the year.

  1. There’s no way they can perform the engine change during the season, unless of course they’re willing to turn the 2nd half of the season into a glorified testing session à la 2015. And even then, you’d need either Ferrari (no chance), Merc (maybe but maybe not) or Renault (still held by the balls by RB) not only to agree to supply them with engines, but also to agree to ramp up production within the next few months — clearly a tall order.

    But the rumour may indeed point to McLaren reaching a “this far, and no farther” point. Without Big Ron there is no longer any room for romanticism in Woking, so ditching Honda would sound plausible.

  2. Honda are a complete joke, I bet JB is pissing his pants right now – or waiting for the call from Zak to replace Fred once he’s cleared off

  3. With Honda paying nearly all the bills, dumping Honda will cost McLaren 125 Million (100 million plus 25 million for a customer engine deal)…
    Zak Brown promesses McLaren a title sponsor from 2018 onwards, which will be equally difficult with or without a Honda Factory deal. But how many 125 million sponsors are there in this world?
    Honda might not give McLaren a shot at race wins let alone titles in 2017. But Honda gives McLaren something even more valuable: the chance of survival …

  4. This is a bad situation for the great team. On both sides of the fence I can see no easy solution. A customer team won’t stand a chance against a full works unit and here is the problem.. McLaren,for all their knowledge, don’t make engines!! If the sport is to lose a major name like Honda, then sadly our sport is again in trouble. That is the problem with these complicated power units, a small team like McLaren cannot complete at a top level. They are left fighting for crumbs. I bet they wished Manor had survived.

    • I agree Judge but as a previous poster mentioned,it’s not just about bolting in better power unit. Without a major sponsor could McLaren continue to survive in F1? I can’t believe I have just wrote those words😖 for all it’s faults,it really is the teams only option. I just can’t work out why Honda have allowed this situation to develop. They seem unable to learn from past mistakes and remind me of Ferrari in the 80’s. The reason i mentioned manor was ,is this the year McLaren finish bottom?

    • Mercedes spent 7 years from 2007 to 2014 to extricate themselves from their McLaren “union”. I doubt very much they would be willing to re-supply McL with power units now. The bigwigs at Mercedes decided to dump McL after the 07 season where Dennis committed Business and Sporting suicide with his cack-handed management of both drivers!!! Finding out McL were involved in “Ferrarigate” and shipping a 100 million dollars fine to the FIA sealed the deal for Mercedes to bail out asap. Mercedes would fight tooth and nail to refuse supplying McL ever again, never mind this or next season…..its not happening! #:)

  5. I’m not sure if things are terminal just yet though honda have been disappointing so far. They seem to have a completely new PU and probably need a little more time. Their rather trying experiences over the last two yeasrs should help them fix any serious issues fairly quickly. I think we need to see what happens at the first three races. Im in a generous mood today!

    • I think this is wishful thinking at best. If you can’t sort out your power unit in two (now three) years, what good is 4 days of testing? This is all because the chassis and engine aren’t married together in simulation from what I understand early in the process. The chassis, ERS and engine all have to work in harmony. This isn’t like delivering a canned product like an airbag, something else the Japanese have recently struggled with.

      Culturally they don’t reward risk-taking, and if this year they decided to finally take a risk, it’s too late. They’ve lost too much face after two conservative years trying to incrementally improve their package only to find that its maximum potential was much too low for the competition.

  6. Interesting comments from Gary Anderson today though:

    “McLaren can’t complain about a lack of Honda power. Alonso just can’t get on the throttle properly between Turn 2 and Turn 3 because of a lack of overall grip. There’s plenty more of the old gee-gees available if the chassis was stronger.”

    McLarens woes may not all be down to the Honda engine itself. However, getting the oil tank wrong was such a massive face palm by Honda.

    • There’s a high degree of probability that Mclaren are partly to blame for stipulating the size and placement of ancillary components such as this, based on their packaging requirements

    • The oil tank is of a similar design to the one Mercedes uses apparently. I can’t remember where I read it but Andy Cowell said it’s a difficult design to get working properly. I’d reserve judgement on Honda, the PU’s being used at this test are apparently not the Race Spec PU’s (next week for those apparently). Honda said they hope to be on par with Mercedes 2016 PU at the start of the season. As for Alonso having a lack of overall grip ? I’d not be too concerned by that just yet, McLaren have probably not done all the aero testing they need to do before they bring new bits to the car to add performance and carry out more complex set up changes.

      I expected Honda to have a bit of a horror show this week and the inevitable the sky is falling in reaction. McLaren might well decide to kick Honda to the kerb and take a customer PU deal but that means they are unlikely to be in a position to win the titles as with these PU’s you need to have the PU and Chassis integration spot on. They won’t get that from Mercedes, Ferrari or Renault. McLaren would probably not even get a 2017 PU at this late stage, 2016 PU’s or nowt.

      • So Honda’s aim is still to be 12 months behind?

        And I imagine there is no grip because they aren’t going fast enough due to the GP3 engine to keep heat in the tyres?

        I really hope Honda and McLaren do pull a rabbit out of the hat and are competitive, but things aren’t looking good right now

        • It’s a new PU concept, so hitting Mercedes 2016 level would be a good place to start developing the concept further aka finding more horse power from the ICE and ERS as the season progresses (I wouldn’t be surprised if Honda burn through both drivers allocation of 4 PU’s in the quest for more power). As for grip levels ? Likely down to McLaren and Honda making a decision to run the PU in a safe mode (educated guess) so McLaren can get the aero data gathering and systems checks done before next week’s test. Anyway upgraded PU’s for next week’s test apparently (closer to the race spec) so if those run without too many issues then this week will likely become a distant memory or turn into a bigger nightmare.

  7. I imagine the other teams are letting out a big sigh of relief that Ron Dennis was obstinate on insisting McLaren be the sole “beneficiary” of Honda’s engines.
    Maybe Honda should have bought the Manor team, the cost would have been peanuts to them, at least it would have given them more chances to test their engines and gain data, so that they could become more reliable.

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