McLaren have taken the decision to drop the Japanese manufacturer after McLaren boss Zak Brown made comments highlighting that even the money that Honda brings to the teams isn’t enough to outweigh the outright performance deficit and the slow rot of brand prestige.
The McLaren-Honda partnership never got going, despite the implications of reviving a legendary relationship that would rekindle a winning formula with nostalgic imagery of Ayrton Senna bolting it around in the MP4/4.
Instead, McLaren find themselves with an uncompetitive car that’s key weakness lies in the power unit after three years of gradual improvement, the wheels have fallen off the wagon for good this time. Whilst the chassis of the MCL32 has proven to be quite competitive this season, with Alonso regularly able to get into Q2 and fight within the top ten, it is engine failures that are continuing to hold the team back and frustrate their star driver onto greener pastures for 2018.
Alonso has admitted that even Mercedes power at McLaren next season might not be enough to keep him interested in the team, with rumours of a Renault reunion still circulating. Zak Brown has labelled the decision to drop Honda as a business decision, devoid of the emotive rhetoric in which Honda were reintroduced to the team in 2015.
“I think it just becomes a business decision. 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.
You’ve got two different types of sponsor losses, you have those that leave the sport, sometimes you don’t know if that was you or the sport or circumstances, but when someone leaves a team to go to another team what that means is they are happy with the sport, they’re not happy with the team.
We’ve had more of those in the last couple of years than we’ve probably had – and maybe not statistically – in the last decade.
So when you start adding that up it starts to offset the positive element of the contractual relationship with Honda where we are getting those revenues we’re depositing, there’s not outgoing, obviously that’s not the case with a lot of the teams here.”
– Zak Brown
Mercedes will be the most likely candidates to partner McLaren next season, with Renault providing another situation in which the team could be frustrated by power-related issues, and McLaren-Ferrari just feeling wrong, and looking wrong.
The Honda blip has been costly to the team, who have been unable to showcase the winning mentality that they continue to foster. That appears completely delusional in a future with Honda, so jumping ship and getting a Mercedes customer deal in 2018 will at least put the teams results into the hands of the drivers and the race team, instead of turning up to every race with the sense that all efforts will be for nothing because there’s a spluttering Honda PU ruining another season.