Speaking today to Reuters, Brown gave us the strongest hint yet that their friendship with Honda is now “at a fork in the road” and that management are now seriously considering divorce.
Zak has stated that the engine upgrades promised for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix were not ready and the Japanese manufacturer could not offer a firm date for delivery
He stated that the intention has and still is to win championships with Honda’s bolted into the back of their cars, there were “serious concerns” in confidence if that was now possible in a suitable time frame, Brown stating:
“Honda’s working very hard but they seem a bit lost,”
– which is the first truly negative public statement from the head of the team.
“We were only told recently that we wouldn’t have the upgrade coming (for Montreal)…and we don’t have a definitive timeline, which is concerning because the pain is great and we can’t sit around forever”
“We were eagerly awaiting this upgrade as were our drivers and it’s a big disappointment that it’s not coming. It’s not lack of effort, but they are struggling to get it to come together.”
McLaren, no doubt were waiting with bated breath for the upgrades, their record in Canada is outstanding and I am sure they wanted to show the world that their developments and loyalty to the engine manufacture to produce power and reliability are paying off.
I imagine some of Zak’s frustrations was from looking forward to building on his earlier statement this week of how well the car is operation from an aero perspective.
The executive committee have now given us our marching orders,” said Brown “We’re not going to go into another year like this, in hope.”
“I don’t want to get into what our options are. Our preference is to win the world championship with Honda. But at some point you need to make a decision as to whether that’s achievable. And we have serious concerns”
“Missing upgrades, and upgrades not delivering to the level we were told they were going to, you can only take that so long. And we’re near our limit.”
Alonso gets a mention, perhaps indicating team priorities:
“It will all come together,” said Brown, who said there were some big decisions to make in the next 90 days with the team needing to plan for the new car and give Alonso a reason to stay.
“There’s lots of things that go into the decision and we’re entering that window now of ‘which way do you go when you come to the fork in the road’.
It was reported that Honda spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.
“Do I think you can win with a customer engine? I think you can,”
– his reply, whilst hinting at Red Bull.
Brown also hinted that for the team, is it a now a credible bet to be able to offset the financial advantage of being with Honda (at $100m) by subtracting possible (lost) FOM payments (prize money) and the reintroduction of sponsorship deals.
Mansell (at the Motor Sport Magazine Hall of Fame at a gala dinner on Wednesday) also spared a thought for Honda, McLaren’s beleaguered engine partners, after comments by the team’s executive director Zak Brown casting doubt on the future of the partnership.
“I’d suggest probably something has got to change,” said Mansell, who won races in Honda-engined cars at Williams. “And fast. And hopefully it can change where McLaren and Honda get it right together.
“They should now be competing for the wins and the world championship. And sadly, for whatever reason best known to them, it’s not happening.”
Watch this space.