Why McLaren should not ditch Honda

VOICE OF THE FAN’s PIECE By TJ13 contributor Steve Barby 

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We should accept that McLaren Honda, a partnership both sides took on willingly is one entity. McLaren – Honda, Honda – McLaren. This is a partnership that is of such significance as to warrant the investment of hundreds of millions of shareholders money. For that reason alone, in this day and age of bean counters and dividends, such partnerships are more important than ever.

Rumour has it that this partnership is to end soon. On planet McLaren, the Honda sun will set in 2017 and the rise of a new Mercedes moon will rise in in 2018. This, whilst initially may seem a good idea, I believe is the wrong decision. Let me explain why.

Honda – McLaren partnerships have been amazing. They have beaten a path that others have followed. Set the standard. Set precedent that other, if they cant imitate, can hope to create a story that savours of the tale of the two pedigrees of the sport. Bruce McLaren died testing the car before man stepped foot on the moon. Think Emerson Fittipaldi, think  James Hunt winning the drivers’ championship in 1974 and 1976, respectively.

Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna took between them seven drivers’ championships and McLaren six constructors’ championships. I could go on, but I feel that if your still reading by now you will probably be aware, if not then the rest you will find dull and pointless.

My feeling is, that if this (and the last) season cannot replicate the previous success, this renewed partnership should be allowed to have the chance to start to savour. This is not a situation where this partnership should be seeking to “re-establish” their crown in F1 Land, rather than look at using all the strength, knowledge and friendship from the past to have a stab at conquering this new land. After all, F1 Land is a very different place to what it was, it might as well be landing on mars. But they have done that before and could do it again.

They have done it before, conquered new lands and done it well. They earned their place at the top through skill, ability and valour. I have heard many times that this partnership should never have been recreated, but that would have been a waste.

There was an opportunity and should that opportunity be allowed to wain then fortune and powers of minds would have been in vain and the opportunity will have been extinguished.

The reformed partnership should have been protected from the headlines, and the struggle to still be admired, there should be much talk about when they become the F1 trailblazers again…because they could be. N E V E R RULE OUT A HONDA MCLAREN partnership.

Stopping short of this goal, and signing up with Mercedes Benz will send out the message that McLaren cannot cut the mustard by themselves, they also need Mercedes. This is short sighted.

I feel it is necessary for this partnership to be in the wilderness for a few years, and not be afraid to be so. In the end the work, fight, WILL be respected and remembered as such, because I do not believe that given the time this could fail. These years, if seen through will be seen as a positive and not a mistake.

Given the almost assured long term success, not only would the respect be returned, but also both companies get to be able to show their ultimate abilities, which will no longer be in doubt. The hard work to get to the top would happen, but importantly, at a corporate level, both names would also keep their place at the top with relative ease, for a few years. It is the F1 way. Let every team demand a Honda engine. They will create one that satisfied this demand if they are given the chance, I have no doubt. They certainly seem committed to F1… but they have to, they cant leave until they have succeeded. Too expensive to fail Mercedes have attributed a growth of 260,000 new car sales as a result of their F1 success in 2014 alone. I reckon on that being approx. £4bn. Making the Mercedes budget a sniff.

Let me remind you of the first few years of the recent Mercedes return to F1, under the development of Michael Schumacher… Yes the “in it for now” gang said that he should have never returned… I never believed they expected huge results, but a master builder that is tuned by a master craftsman… was always going to END in a master car… and it did.

So as we have seen many times before, even with rules changes, making the methods to success a new ball game year in, year out – the harder the climb to the top, the easier it is to stay there.

So, going back to rule changes etc, we all agree that in F1, there is nothing more challenging than a new rule book, and nothing worse than to make each team uncertain of success in the next year or two.

So – why the problem. Well it would also be sensible to bring the bean counters into the equation. Support = sponsorship. Support would always be an issue after a big change. It would be hard to get support for previous achievements as things have moved on…a lot. Others suffered from the previous success and will jump at the chance to shank the people riding the new learning curve. Support would also be lukewarm from those hoping to do well under the new partnership as people tend to, by nature, distrust new things that need work. Many teams will happily stir the pot as they know that given the time they will also be on a back foot. This all leaves the McLaren – Honda friendship very fragile.

So it is not a surprise when given McLaren car sales, share holders et all that there is going to be a divorce. This long term and very successful relationship is going to be killed before the birth of the first child. McLaren will hope to protect their car sales by winning with Mercedes, and Honda will continue in F1 (even with Sauber) for as long as it takes to repair the damage. Honda, I feel wanted nothing other than a kingdom to be king of again. You bet against them achieving that with your money, not mine.

If I was in charge I would keep saying my prayers for a year or two rather than rely on MB for power and results. Honda WILL get there but when they do, it will seem like a home victory. Any victory with MB will be almost pointless for McLaren.

They will always be in debt to another car maker when they are selling their own success. They may gain success quickly, but they will never be in control. Keeping their crown will always be in the hands of MB, who incidentally will be running a works team also. McLaren’s success is equally likely to boost Mercedes sales than their own.. Each glory will in effect, be a double glory.

Mercedes Benz know it’s a good car… and they will want to replace Ferrari at the top. MB powered podium lockouts week in, week out. Simple maths.

McLaren-Mercedes will always evidence (bean counters take note) that McLaren needed the fortune and goodwill of MB to become successful. McLaren will N E V E R keep MB friendly and faithful, like they could with Honda.

Until they build their own engines, McLaren will always have to share the fact that the roots of the company will be with those who bestow the power.

Honda McLaren should be treated as one, as this has always been associated, and have an equal share of the glory. Honda have no older alliances, and I do not believe they are in a rush to make new ones.

But, I do realise that we have to take into account the present, not past.. I just feel there could be more efforts in making the present sound more like a path to victory.

I feel that McLaren should take a bit more responsibility to us, the fans, and the shareholders and the sponsors and stop blaming the fortune of loss on the contracts they signed, as their knees will still be skinned, but rather manage the deal and make it work.

Victory against the tempest, and what how sweet could it be WHEN it happens as history suggests it will? I feel McLaren could do more to defend themselves with their fans / sponsorship instead of running from the fight and pinning their colours to a competitors mast. I for one, have a soft spot for McLaren, but would rather this union be made to work again than watch future success be met by other fans with a certain disgust for intolerance for Mercedes.

McLaren do not need to worry about drivers, they are all in it for themselves, they will follow the car. Do not worry about shares and sales, both of you will make up for lost time and the gains are more likely to be disproportionate.

McLaren – please take note: in order for your true fan base to be restored, bear in mind – deliverance is to no avail if it does not depend on oneself. The reliability, consistency and durability of your true fans and sponsors will always depend on YOUR valour.

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11 responses to “Why McLaren should not ditch Honda

  1. Before we get all dewy-eyed about the previous McLaren – Honda partnership, it’s good to remember that the Honda turbo had been around for five seasons before it ended up in a McLaren in 1988. It started with the Spirit team in 1983 then moved to Williams in 1984. Two of those seasons produced Constructors WC (86 & 87) and 87 a drivers WC for Williams. In fact Williams had an engine contract with Honda in 1988, which Honda cancelled because of a policy conflict with Frank Williams. Honda ended up at McLaren in 1988 largely due to the impending arrival of Senna and pressure from Philip Morris. Though had Frank Williams done what Honda wanted there is a good chance Honda would never have supplied engines to McLaren.

    Fast forward nearly 25 years and Honda haven’t produced a winning F1 engine since the glory days of the late 80’s – early 90’s and don’t look like they are any-time soon. Today McLaren is an F1 team that is unravelling. They have little sponsorship and their bills are largely being paid by Honda. Coupled with ownership who view McLaren as a trophy company and management who think the colour of the car matters, the team is on the brink. And lets be honest – McLaren aren’t manufacturers like Ferrari or M-B, they are privateers, they are still what Enzo Ferrari called garagistes.

    I think McLaren stay with Honda only because that’s really their only option. They can’t afford to lose Honda.

  2. That too. In fact I can think of more reason still. For all these business reasons they should stop with the mini tantrums on TV aimed at Honda and show a bit more solidarity. IF the reality is not quite as comfortable as they would like, adding your comments to the mix, even more reason to show some solidarity and confidence in public… might get some sponsors then. Mind you… the column inches Mclaren have taken these last few weeks… I am thinking of offering them a tenner for my name on the rear wing 🙂

  3. Honda-Mclaren partnerships?
    I’m certain there was only one, 1988-92 and that was called Marlboro Mclaren-Honda.

  4. McLaren and Honda will be partners for a while. Having Sauber as a second team running the Honda engine will only help to improve things.

  5. I still stand by my original comment that after Monaco there will be no Honda engine in the back of a McLaren anymore.

  6. “Let me remind you of the first few years of the recent Mercedes return to F1, under the development of Michael Schumacher… Yes the “in it for now” gang said that he should have never returned… I never believed they expected huge results, but a master builder that is tuned by a master craftsman… was always going to END in a master car… and it did.”

    What are you talking about? In 2012, the W03 driven by M.Schu retired SEVEN times with only one podium. Rosberg at least had a win and a podium and a pole. Rosberg was consistently faster than M.Schu in qualifying and the race. The so-called “master car” you claim would have been the W04 which was the first Mercedes to be designed by Aldo Costa. The W04 had 3 wins and 9 podiums, so an improved performance, but by no means a “master car” as it finished 2nd in the WCC. The W04 was known to be harsh on tires, and certainly wasn’t the pick of the field.

    Finally, to think that much carried over from W04 to W05 is a fallacy. With new regs came a completely new car that M.Schu had nothing to do with.

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