A short-term reshuffle of the official FIA press conference on Friday of Formula One weekend 2017 in Spielberg has further fuelled rumors of an alleged breakup between McLaren and Honda. Originally, the world automobile association Ferrari team leader Maurizio Arrivabene and Pirelli Formula One boss Mario Isola had nominated for participation in the first part of the event. The two Italians, together with Toto Wolff, should ask the press representatives questions and answers.
But it was different. In a note on Friday afternoon, the FIA presented a revised plan. In addition to Mercedes Motorsport Chief Toto Wolff, McLaren team leader Eric Boullier and Honda Formula One chief Yasuke Hasegawa were invited. What a mix: The British team and the Japanese engine manufacturer are said to be on the verge of separation, including Toto Wolff at the table, who is supposed to offer the alternative solution for McLaren: Mercedes aggregates.
Drilling questions, which some might have wished for, were largely left out. However, it became clear that in the marriage between McLaren and Honda there were more friendly tones. We haven’t done the job yet, so we’ve frustrated Eric. But that’s not why we’re just running away,”Hasegawa said. Honda is fully committed to the programme. We will do everything we can to turn the situation around.”
Honda’s uncertainties are becoming clear
“This is not the time to express our full confidence now. I can only say that we are trying to catch up as quickly as possible. That is all we can do,”said the Japanese, on the question of catching up on Mercedes and Ferrari by the end of the year. Several McLaren officials had recently repeatedly stated that 2018 needs to be competitive and will “do everything” on its way there to ensure this.
Clear text: Woking has publicly stated that 2018 will not work in the rear of cars until the Japanese clearly prove that the gap to competition has been closed. Several media have also reported that Team Leader Eric Boullier could envisage temporarily switching to another manufacturer (Mercedes?) in order to leave the Japanese to work in peace. 2019 or 2020 would be a return to the product from Japan.
“This was taken out of context. I have drawn up many possible scenarios, but in the end only one was named. I said we’re looking at all our options. And that’s one of many. But none that we want to implement,”Boullier explains the confusion. Toto Wolff, who was placed as a buffer between the partners Hasegawa and Boullier, jokes: “Well, if that is not a possibility for Mclaren, then we are not an option either.”
“McLaren has different possibilities, we do not,” complains the Honda manager, whose experts in Britain and Japan “have a vague idea” of how to close the gap to Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault. This does not sound like a promising plan. Honda also equips clean from 2018. If McLaren stopped working together, would there be a chance of a revival of the Williams-Honda combination?” Oh no, shakes Hasegawa’s head. Not at all.”