Despite presenting a unified front to the media, McLaren and Honda could part ways before the end of the 2017 Formula One season.
According to Motorsport.com’s sources within the team, McLaren has contacted Mercedes-AMG Petronas to determine if it’s possible to secure a supply of power units in short order. Mercedes reportedly didn’t shoot down McLaren’s inquiry.
McLaren switched from the dominant Mercedes power units to Honda in 2015, with the team predicting it would be fighting for championships within three years.
After putting around at the back of the grid during 2015, McLaren-Honda’s reliability and performance slightly improved for 2016, with its cars making it to Q2 on several occasions. Honda completely changed its power unit ahead of 2017, opting for an aggressively compact package in the hopes of making big horsepower gains. Instead, the high-risk concept has proven unreliable in testing, severely limiting the amount of laps Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were able to complete.
McLaren Technology Group CEO Zak Brown told Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz at preseason testing the team has a long-term contract with Honda, but was careful not to reveal too much about the internal situation. However, Motorsport.com reports the Woking, U.K.-based outfit is considering all options, seemingly having little faith in Honda’s repeated assurance it can sort out its reliability issues.
Returning to Mercedes power seems to be McLaren’s most feasible option, and the most promising. With the collapse of Manor Racing ahead of this season, Mercedes has a team’s worth of power units going unused.
Although the MCL32 wasn’t designed around a Mercedes power plant, the increase in horsepower would likely still move McLaren further up the grid, which would significantly improve its marketability to potential sponsors.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@McLarenF1