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McLaren may switch to Honda engines (No) UPDATE #4 (GMM)  Honda has now added its denial to rumors the Japanese carmaker could be looking to return to F1 by supplying a V6 engine to McLaren in 2014.

With McLaren's Mercedes relationship reverting to mere 'customer' status after next season, Auto Motor und Sport reported recently that Honda could fill the void by returning to F1 and rekindling its ultra-successful past link with the famous British team.

"That's all wide of the mark," McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale said last week.

And Honda chief executive Takanobu Ito said on Wednesday: "That was a complete unfounded rumor.

"Of course we are interested but we think there are higher priorities than formula one," he told North American reporters at the Tokyo motor show.

Honda pulled its team out of F1 at the end of 2008.

11/23/11 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  McLaren on Wednesday dismissed reports the famous British team could reunite with Honda power for F1's new V6 engine era in 2014. After next year, the Woking based squad will start paying for its Mercedes engines.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reported that Honda - having pulled its works team out of F1 at the end of 2008 - could fill the void for McLaren by returning to the sport and rekindling the ultra-successful past partnership.

"That's all wide of the mark," McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale, also denying that the team has been in talks with any other carmakers, told reporters on Wednesday.

"We are very happy with and enjoying our partnership with Mercedes-Benz," he added during a teleconference, according to F1's official website.

"We aren't quite sure where that story came from in truth.  But I can stop the rumor and say that we are entirely focused on our Mercedes-Benz relationship.

"It is a long one spanning many wins and championships and long may it continue," added Neale, less than two weeks after Lewis Hamilton's win last time out in Abu Dhabi.

But with Mercedes no longer a McLaren co-owner, and indeed now with its own works team, there are fears McLaren might be a Mercedes 'customer team' beyond 2012.

Also amid Red Bull's ever-deepening relationship with Renault, Neale insisted: "I don't think that's a concern.

"Of course Mercedes have their own team and it's right and proper that a degree of focus is going in that direction.

"(But) they are formidable technical partners and we enjoy that relationship."

Senna and Prost run 1-2 for McLaren Honda at Monza in 1990
This weekend there have been rumors that McLaren and Honda may be looking at getting back together to chase the coveted number one plate they carried during the classic partnership which dominated F1 in the late 1980s. But is there really a business case for it as far as Honda are concerned?

The Honda era for the McLaren team was a real landmark, with 44 victories between 1988 and 1992 and Prost and Senna in their prime. Recently we’ve seen the revival of the Williams-Renault for 2012 onwards, so retro brands are in vogue.

German magazine Auto motor und sport suggested this week that a McLaren source had indicated that the team was keen to try to work up an alliance with Honda for the new generation 2014 engines.

It’s not hard to see why McLaren would want this. They are no longer a manufacturer backed team, since Mercedes bought its own team. They cannot afford to be left behind, especially when engines become a major performance differentiator again in 2014 with the new hybrid turbo formula.

The map is changing with these new rules in mind, powerbases being built, with Renault overtly promoting Red Bull as its factory team. McLaren likes to think of itself as being at least F1′s second most important team after Ferrari, with aspirations to overtake it somewhere in the future. But neither team can allow Red Bull to dominate the sport for long.

But would Honda want to come back to F1? The company quit the sport abruptly at the end of 2008. At the time they owned a team, which is far more expensive undertaking than being an engine supplier.

I made some enquiries in Japan over the last couple of days and it seems there are some significant hurdles to them coming back.

First the company’s share price has slumped by over 30% in the last 9 months and the mood I’m getting from sources close to the manufacturer is that there are bigger business issues to deal with before they start thinking about F1 again. The aftermath of the Japanese tsunami as well as the floods in Thailand are high priorities.

The there is the issue of exchange rates, which are making Japanese goods very expensive overseas at the moment and making it hard to be profitable. However the flip side is that with rates as they are at the moment any spend on European based activity would be 40% less expensive than when they were last doing F1 in 2008.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle would be one of confidence within the Japanese company; when Honda was last in F1 they were far from being the most competitive engine. Their unit was heavier and less powerful than the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault units. JamesAllenonF1

11/19/11 (GMM)  Honda could be looking to return to formula one in 2014, according to Germany's Auto Motor und Sport. The report said the Japanese manufacturer, having pulled out of formula one as an engine and chassis maker in 2008, might reunite with McLaren, the currently Mercedes-powered team. Between 1998 until 1991, Honda won four consecutive world championships with the famous British team.

"The chances are good that with the introduction of the turbo V6s in 2014, Honda will celebrate a comeback with McLaren," read the German report.

The Woking based team's current engine supplier Mercedes, formerly a McLaren co-owner, will actually charge McLaren for the use of its 2.4 liter V8s in 2013, the report added.

"A senior manager said at Suzuka that technically Honda is getting ready to return with a turbo V6 from 2014.  Only the green light of the board is missing," said Auto Motor und Sport.

11/18/11 McLaren are considering joining forces with Honda again once their deal with Mercedes for free Formula One engines has expired at the end of 2012, a German magazine reported on Friday.

Auto motor und sport said McLaren were looking around for a new engine partner and cited team sources saying Honda could be a possible candidate when the sport's new V6 turbo engine is introduced in 2014.

There was no immediate comment from McLaren.

The magazine said a senior Honda manager in Suzuka had said everything was technically ready for a Formula One comeback as an engine provider but management had yet to approve anything.

Mercedes sold their stake in McLaren after buying the 2009 championship-winning Brawn team and renaming it Mercedes GP.

The deal allowed McLaren a free supply of engines to the end of 2012 and a guaranteed supply thereafter until at least 2015 at the going rate of around eight million euros (6.8 million pounds) a year if they want it.

Mercedes currently supply three teams with engines, while Renault will have four teams next year and Ferrari three. The remaining two are powered by Cosworth.

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