Considering the amount of money Honda has invested in this year’s F1 campaign, and how much that has contributed to the 2017 McLaren entry pot we should understand that McLaren cannot simply walk away or “fire” Honda. It will be up to Honda to decide if they wish to walk away at the end of this year. This sentiment was echoed in today’s team representative press conference with Jonathan Neale (McLaren) stating “you can’t simply rip up a contract”
There will of course bound to be performance conditions. It would be plausible to suggest that unless Honda delivers a solid extra 25-35 bhp soon, then McLaren might be able to cut and run. Although they have not accomplished this yet, they are yet to prove they can’t.
This week at Silverstone both drivers are racing the 3rd generation engine. Let’s not focus on how many engines Alonso has had, or how many grid penalties he will take on Sunday. That is unnecessary. It will be exciting to see the relative performance the cars have to the rest of the pack.
McLaren may well be guarded by a performance clause, but we should also consider a very real possibility that Honda, before committing hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and resource also sought assurances. World Championship winning team, top chassis, at least one world championship driver?
It has been remarked that “something has changed” in the narratives coming from McLaren HQ. Speculation has been what.
There have (by Neale’s own admission) been many “uncomfortable conversations” “behind closed doors” and that they are still a long way off the benchmark set by the front running teams. He also stated today that the partnership is “not sustainable (in) current form” But what if the form changes?
Are as suspected, Alonso’s disappointments caused more from contractual small print than not having a fast car?
One thing is for sure, many teams are now united in delaying contract talks with their drivers until after September. Along with Kimi’s seat, it’s fair to assume that Alonso’s movements will be the cornerstones of all driver movements. Silly season may well be delayed on Honda’s lost power.
McLaren is unlikely to be able to make any plans for next year until Honda decide to stay or go, but Neale declared today that they are in talks with other suppliers as a backup. “Everyone always talks to everyone,” said Neale.
Honda’s advancements perhaps just need more time, Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes AMG High-Performance Powertrains believes that we should never underestimate Honda and that they will come good quite quickly. Will they help? No. It has been rumoured that help with the TJI engine might be anticipated from other teams who have struggled but got on top with the technology, but again today when asked if any help is likely to happen it was a firm “no” from Renault and Mercedes. Cyril Abiteboul stated so with quite a bitter but truthful “no body helped us” and Mercedes have suggested that a majority vote to remove development tokens should be enough to “allow innovation”.
Silverstone will be an interesting watch. Forget penalties, Alonso has a fresh new engine and Silverstone is a power track. Give Alonso a McLaren and the best engine he would win.
It is looking like “Silly Season” is going to be delayed and all eyes will be on Alonso’s lap times (and Kimi’s hotel bookings). Assuming he gets enough in to count. Who will blink first? All hell is going to break loose when that engine fails to meet its performance criteria deadline. I would say about October.