Honda are being pressurized by the FIA to find a customer team within F1 to add more variety on the grid. The organizing body were hopeful that the Japanese manufacturer could find a customer team for 2017 but this looks to be unlikely.
The most interesting aspect of Honda adding a second team to its F1 operation would be that it would provide a reference point for the collaboration between McLaren and the Japanese manufacturer. The most likely candidate for 2018 Honda Power is Sauber and having two teams running the same power unit would allow a direct comparison between the teams chassis and their ability optimise the power-units they’re supplied.
Honda’s return to Formula One with McLaren was preempted to allow the Woking based team to resurge to former glory. Instead, a two-year trickle of slight improvement that has seen the team only just reach the performance levels of their final season with Mercedes in 2014. If another team came into the Honda fold and started to outperform McLaren-Honda, pressure from the outside would soon be taken off of the Japanese Manufacturer and new questions would emerge at McLaren’s garage door.
Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa told a Spanish newspaper about the steps required to becoming a customer supplier. He said,
“Not right now, but by the end of next season we could be ready for that option.”
– Yusuke Hasegawa
With Hasegawa also claiming that 2017 will see Honda matching Mercedes for power, the pressure and build-up for McLaren in 2017 will no doubt be inflated yet again. McLaren F1’s in-house philosopher Eric Boullier said,
“We had to decide on a concept that we believed would be a winning one and develop it over the years, not just months. That is what Red Bull have been doing for seven years, Mercedes for five years.
When you take an average of all the races, we are fighting with Ferrari in terms of chassis. Red Bull and Mercedes are better than us, but we are the best of the rest.”
– Eric Boullier
With Honda actively seeking to become a customer supplier, McLaren will be hoping that this doesn’t turn into a scenario in which they have done all of the donkey work and provided a platform for the Japanese Manufacturer to develop just so a second-team can come along and harvest the fruits.