McLaren’s long-term partnership with Honda is under threat as the Woking team could severe their relationship at the end of this season using a break clause.
Full of optimism at the launch of the McLaren-Honda’s MCL32, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne’s aspirations have seemingly ground to a halt after a wretched pre-season.
Engine changes, closing in on double figures, coupled with more breakdowns than any other team meant McLaren covered the least number of laps in this year’s pre-season testing.
The Woking team managed just 425 laps, down on their 710 from 2016, and less than half of what Mercedes, at 1096 laps, achieved this year.
Reliability, though, is not the only concern.
The Honda engine is also lacking in power with only Sauber, who are running a 2016 engine, slower in testing.
“I don’t think we are too far back with the chassis, we have only one problem which is the power unit,” was Alonso’s assessment. “There is no reliability and there is no power. We are 30kph down on the straight.”
McLaren’s pre-season form had led to speculation that they could severe ties with Honda with the DailyMail reporting that it could happen at the end of this season.
“McLaren have a long-term partnership with Honda, until 2024, but it is understood there are break clauses on both sides,” reads the report. “If McLaren wish to cut free, they could do so at the end of the year.
“Similarly, if Honda feel their problems are causing more loss of face than they can endure, they too could sever ties. That doomsday scenario is one both partners want to avoid, with each publicly committing themselves to one another.”
Racing director Eric Boullier believes part of the problem with Honda is that they lack a F1 culture.
He explained: “They are trying to build a competitive power unit, but they do not have a Formula One culture.
“They are a big, successful company and they have their own ways of doing things. To devise a power unit in Japan is a challenge. That is why Mercedes decided to make theirs in England.
“We need a greater transfer of knowledge. They need to take on board the Formula One culture and to integrate that at all levels. You need to be fast in developing, as fast as F1 moves. Process, procurement, both need to be looked at.”
Meanwhile, according to Sky Sports, the problem with the Honda unit stems from ‘unexpected vibrations’ from the engine that are causing the power unit to ‘effectively shake itself into breaking down’.
“What’s the issue with the engine? As far as I can glean, the issue is vibrations and so many vibrations that it is affecting the electrics and things are popping out left, right and centre,” explained Sky F1’s David Croft.