McLaren to switch back to Mercedes engines (11th Update)

UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. The McLaren Formula 1 team "has no choice but to stay with Honda next season" after the Japanese manufacturer played down talk of a switch to Toro Rosso and Renault said that "supplying more than three teams would hurt their current partners." Ferrari and Mercedes already turned them down as well.

Honda is "keen to continue with McLaren," which is "running out of patience after three season of poor reliability and under-powered engines." Reuters

A switch to Mercedes engines is the only thing that would keep Alonso at McLaren
A switch to Mercedes engines may be off

07/09/17 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today as 'Something changed' in McLaren-Honda divorce

(GMM) After a tumultuous period in the McLaren-Honda marriage, the works collaboration now appears to be back on track.

Recent reports hinted that a divorce announcement was imminent, but the rhetoric has suddenly changed in Austria, where Honda has duly delivered the more powerful 'spec 3' engine.

It actually malfunctioned in Fernando Alonso's car, but the Spaniard sounded oddly satisfied with having to revert to the 'spec 2' unit from Baku.

"From my grid position I can go into the points," he said.

"We are constantly improving. The team is bringing aero parts all the time and Honda is bringing engine upgrades. We are moving in the right direction, we just lack reliability," Alonso added.

Earlier in Austria, McLaren's Eric Boullier, Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa and Mercedes' Toto Wolff sat together in the FIA press conference, and together denied rumors McLaren would be Mercedes-powered next year.

Now, Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda insists: "If we intervened in an existing contract by offering an engine, Honda could sue us."

And so it seems that McLaren and Honda may have patched up some of their differences.

"The Japanese are being almost praised, even if another engine has broken," said Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt.

"You do not have to be a mind reader to realize that something has happened in the last two weeks."

Still, there are some reports that a McLaren-imposed deadline for Honda to up its game even more is still in play.

Marca sports newspaper quotes McLaren executive Zak Brown as saying: "In 2018 we must have a competitive engine.

"Honda is working and progressing and we want to give them room to improve. We've seen a good reaction from them," he said.

06/25/17 (GMM) Toto Wolff says Mercedes needs to know if McLaren needs a customer engine supply for 2018 sometime "after the summer break".

Although Honda made a step forward in Baku, it is increasingly clear that McLaren and Fernando Alonso's patience with the hapless Japanese supplier is up.

"I think our opponents are even a bit confused about our speed," Spaniard Alonso said at Baku.

"We are so slow that they probably think we are going into the pits when we are actually starting a flying lap. I'm sorry, but it's true," he added.

So rumors are rife that a McLaren-Honda divorce is in the works, with the British team lining up a Mercedes deal instead.

Mercedes boss Wolff says nothing is confirmed, but a deadline is looming.

"We would have to know something after the summer break," he said at Baku.

"McLaren probably needs to know earlier than we do, but I say again — we do not interfere in the relationship between Honda and McLaren.

"We will not be a reason for any divorce. Only if McLaren is at the point where they need an engine will we listen. We do not grab a partner away from another manufacturer," Wolff insisted.

Mike Gascoyne
Mike Gascoyne

06/15/17 McLaren have already decided to break away from Honda, they’re just trying to figure out how to make it public – that’s the opinion of Mike Gascoyne.

Robbed of a first World Championship point by yet another Honda engine failure, McLaren’s criticism of their engine partner reached new heights in the wake of their Canadian GP disappointment.

"Not good enough" was racing director Eric Boullier’s assessment while Fernando Alonso spoke of his "frustration."

And it appears as if it could be only a matter of time before McLaren announce that they are parting ways with Honda.

"The rhetoric has been quite critical for the last couple of races and it just sounds like a decision has been made and they are just fencing around about how to make it public," former Toyota technical boss Gascoyne said on the Sky’s F1 Report: Canada review show.

"There has been a big shift and Honda, if anything, are getting worse."

Meanwhile Zak Brown, McLaren’s CEO, has stated that even the estimated £80 million that Honda put on the table is no longer worth the loss in sponsorship, prize money and reputation.

"I think it just becomes a business decision," quotes him as having said. "As nice as the Honda contract is and I’m sure there’s lots of teams here that would love to have the contractual relationship, at the end of the day you start losing a lot of money in prize money which is all easily documented. We lost sponsor partners to other teams."

There seems little doubt now that McLaren will switch to Mercedes power units
Will Mercedes give McLaren an engine good enough to win?

06/13/17 Formula 1 team McLaren is edging toward a deal with Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes to supply its engines next season — a partnership McLaren hopes will "keep Fernando Alonso" at the team, according to Jonathan McEvoy of the London DAILY MAIL.

McLaren will reportedly drop current engine partner Honda after "patience with the Japanese manufacturers' uncompetitive and unreliable engines finally ran out" — a separation that will cost McLaren $99.5M.

McLaren's long-standing shareholder Mansour Ojjeh "talked at length in the paddock" ahead of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix to Mercedes non-exec Chair Niki Lauda and Motorsport Dir Toto Wolff about the "new arrangement."

Those close to the expected deal said that there "are obstacles to overcome — such as Mercedes' wisdom in supplying their market-leading engines, which took Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to three successive world titles, to a potential championship rival" — but they are "far from insurmountable."

News of the deal "is expected before the summer break in August," though the engines would be supplied next year "rather than for the end of this season."

McLaren's frustration with Honda "was exacerbated by Alonso's engine failure while he was in a point-scoring position" toward the end of the race in Montreal. DAILY MAIL

06/12/17 This rumor is bumped back up to 'strong' today.

(GMM) Toto Wolff has counted himself out of speculation regarding the dubious future of the McLaren-Honda collaboration.

Rumors were rife throughout the Montreal weekend, with many now expecting McLaren to dump Honda and simply buy a customer engine for 2018, perhaps from Mercedes.

"At the moment I do not want to participate in these Rumors and discussions," Wolff, the Mercedes chief, told Bild newspaper.

"It could be detrimental to Honda," he added.

But the Rumors persist that McLaren could actually dump Honda imminently — perhaps in the next few months.

"You could install a new power unit in any F1 car in a minimum of three months," an unnamed F1 engine source said.

What is at least clear for now is that frustrations are reaching boiling point.

After his latest engine failure, Fernando Alonso said after the Canadian grand prix: "The speed difference on the straights with the other cars is dangerous here.

"The others pass as though you're standing on a motorway."

And his misery will now continue in two weeks in Baku.

"It's not just that we lost a point here," he said. "We lost another engine, which means I will be last in Azerbaijan."

Worst still, the Honda upgrade that McLaren was expecting in Canada may not even be ready by Baku.

So another rumor is that even the board of the Honda Motor Company is running out of patience for the hapless F1 project.

"Obviously they (the board) are not happy right now, but they are committed to the long term project," boss Yusuke Hasegawa said.

When asked if it is him who may have to fall on his sword, the Japanese answered: "We are trying to improve, and maybe there is someone who can do better than me.

"For the moment I am doing the best I can."

04/30/17 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today.

It wasn't long ago that McLaren ran Mercedes power
It wasn't long ago that McLaren ran Mercedes power

(GMM) McLaren and Mercedes have denied claims they are teaming up for 2018.

Amid the Honda performance crisis, rumors are sweeping the Sochi paddock that a deal for a reunion of the old McLaren-Mercedes partnership is in the works.

The rumor was proudly announced by former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan, to which McLaren team boss Eric Boullier replied: "I can only say that Eddie is wrong."

Stoffel Vandoorne was also asked about the rumor in Russia, but a McLaren PR spokesperson intervened to declare: "Next question."

And Mercedes' Toto Wolff is quoted by Italy's Autosprint: "Honda and McLaren are two famous and historical brands, and they don't need us.

"I'm sure they will be able to get out of their situation together."

Nonetheless, it is clear that the missing piece at McLaren in 2017 is the engine.

Fernando Alonso said in Sochi: "I like the way the car behaves in the corners, and the new cars suit my style. I would like to think that with a normal engine we could be fighting with the leaders."

Boullier would love to get a Mercedes engine but McLaren has a contract with Honda
Boullier would love to get a Mercedes engine but McLaren has a contract with Honda

03/29/17 (GMM) Two F1 pundits have played down reports McLaren could be about to sensationally dump Honda.

Given the great British team's disastrous start to its third season with the Japanese marque, rumors swept the Melbourne paddock that talks between McLaren and Mercedes have now begun.

McLaren didn't deny it, and team boss Eric Boullier sounded pessimistic that Honda can fix the situation.

"When are we going to have a good engine? I don't know," the Belgian daily La Derniere Heure quoted him saying.

"Honda still has to invent it," Boullier added.

"That they are not happy is quite clear," former F1 driver Christian Klien told Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.

"But this is something they need to solve, because I do not believe they will find a new partner so quickly. There are also contracts that are very important," he added.

Another former driver turned F1 pundit, Christian Danner, agrees.

"While very complicated with these power units, changing engine supplier is technically possible," he told German broadcaster RTL, "but it would be almost an act of violence."


Alonso wanted Honda engines because he did not want to race with a 'B' Mercedes or Ferrari unit
Alonso wanted Honda engines because he did not want to race with a 'B' Mercedes or Ferrari unit

(GMM) Niki Lauda has dodged speculation Mercedes could step in to help McLaren solve its performance crisis.

Rumors swept the Melbourne paddock last weekend that, now into its third hapless season with works engine partner and sponsor Honda, McLaren is finally looking for the exit.

The rumor goes that Eric Boullier is behind a plan to offload the Honda deal to Sauber, and tie up a return to customer Mercedes power for McLaren — perhaps even within this season.

"I cannot comment on this because I do not know about it," Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda is quoted by Germany's Sport1.

In Melbourne, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was also asked about the McLaren Rumors but would not comment except to say he wants a "level playing field" in F1 as well as multiple manufacturers on the grid.

But one theory is that Honda has now acknowledged its major design error with the 2017 power unit, and is rushing to introduce a new concept in the next two months.

"In two months, around the Monaco grand prix, Honda hopes to have a new engine," former F1 test driver Bas Leinders told the Belgian news agency Sporza.

But amid signs that the Spaniard's long patience is also now up, Fernando Alonso does not sound optimistic.

"There has to be a miracle from god to help us — something more than we are doing at the moment," he is quoted by the Spanish sports daily AS.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

03/24/17 (GMM) Fernando Alonso has refused to comment on speculation McLaren is contemplating dumping its hapless works engine partner Honda.

After a tough opening two years of the Anglo-Japanese collaboration, McLaren is still at the back of the field and struggling for mere reliability due to Honda's new power unit.

One rumor is the McLaren has basically already written off the first four races as it looks towards the return to Europe for the Spanish grand prix in May.

"I don't know. I don't write anything off," Alonso is quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial.

"We are not here to wait four, six or eight races to improve the situation. That's how formula one works — it's not a charity."

Some might say that sounds like the Spaniard's endorsement of rumors McLaren must now dump Honda and switch to customer Mercedes power.

Alonso said: "This question is better addressed to the leadership of the team.

"Of course I am aware of the rumors, but I try not to pay attention to them.

"It's frustrating that after two years, everyone is moving forward and Honda is where they were two years ago. Let's hope we can fix the situation — I asked the team to react strongly and very soon," he added.

Alonso acknowledged that Honda has already made "a lot of changes" between the Barcelona tests and Melbourne, but trackside observers noticed that the Honda engine was making odd 'bang' sounds during practice on Friday.

Yet another rumor is that Honda is not willing to take all the blame for McLaren's situation.

Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa said: "In the last two days of the second test week, the problems were caused by vibrations of the car. It was not just a problem with the engine."

He also seemed to hit back at Alonso's claim that while the new generation of F1 cars is much faster, his McLaren can take almost every corner at full-throttle due to the weakness of the power unit.

"I think the power is better than Abu Dhabi last year," Hasegawa insisted, "but the drag has increased. And as the tires are wider, the drivers may feel that the speed has dropped."

03/17/17 (GMM) McLaren have not denied media speculation the British team is considering dumping its hapless works engine partner Honda.

With a dire test season now over, most observers agree that the once-great British team will enter the year faster only than Sauber.

The blame is being pinned squarely on Honda, who in three years have failed to produce a competitive engine for McLaren.

"McLaren are understood to be speaking to Mercedes about going back to using their engines," Ben Hunt, the correspondent for the Sun newspaper, said.

Another report, in Germany's Auto Bild, said McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh has reached out personally to his old contacts at Daimler.

But Spain's El Confidencial quotes a source who claims Mercedes is not McLaren's only option, as "phones are running hot" in F1 circles at present.

However, McLaren's situation is complicated by the huge sponsorship deal that comes with the Honda partnership.

Former McLaren driver Martin Brundle is quoted by the Daily Mail: "They can't leave Honda unless Honda pull out and leave them a fat check like they did Brawn.

"They are very much integrated technically, financially and they have to work through it," he added.

Indeed, new McLaren executive Zak Brown insisted the Woking team "will honor our deal, as McLaren always does".

The media reports, however, insist that the initial contact between McLaren and Mercedes about an engine supply really did take place.

"What does the improvement that we need depend on?" El Confidencial quotes Fernando Alonso as having said last week. "It's going to depend on the big decisions that are taken at the highest level."

Mercedes would not comment, but a McLaren spokesman said: "Winter testing was challenging and disappointing.

"We are working with Honda to address shortcomings and deficiencies. Together with Honda we are considering options, but we will not comment on media speculation."

Alonso was against a 'B' engine from any manufacturer. Now they are begging for one.
Alonso was against a 'B' engine from any manufacturer. Now he is begging for one.

03/16/17 The 2017 Formula One season hasn't started off well for McLaren. During testing in Barcelona, the team went through no less than five different Honda-supplied power units, and had its car fail multiple times on track. It seems McLaren's engine situation is so bad, it's starting to shop around for a replacement.

Reports from Motorsport and BBC Sport suggest that McLaren has reached out to Mercedes about possibly supplying engines to replace the unreliable Honda units. According to NBC Sports, Mercedes has one customer engine program slot left for the 2017 season that was set to go to the Manor F1 team before it was shuttered.

According to the BBC's sources, talks between the two constructors have been "brief and informal," meaning there might still be time for Honda to get its F1 act together.

Even when its cars were working, McLaren was the slowest team in testing, setting a fast time 2.7 seconds off the pace. So not only is Honda's engine unreliable, it seems to be underpowered as well. If things don't improve, we might be seeing McLaren-Mercedes cars on the grid very soon.

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