In any race where it looks like he will come last, he has avoided the wooden spoon by retiring the car. The ex-world champion simply will not permit it to happen. I can comprehend that. Fernando’s fastest lap of the Silverstone circuit was a 1m34.263s on lap 22 that made things look quite optimistic. We should ignore positions or penalties; Silverstone was about experimenting with the relative pace of the 3rd generation engine.
Regrettably, that was as good as it got. A fuel pressure problem (earlier reported by Japanese press as a fuel pump) created another DNF for the Spaniard, who later asserted he would like McLaren to make a decision on its 2018 Formula 1 engine supplier quickly so it can focus on next year’s package.
As I have previously intimated, it is unlikely to be in McLaren’s control to simply ditch Honda unless they fall foul of performance clauses, but it now looks probable that they will. The lap’s before Alonso’s retirement were ordinary at best considering the times of the rest of the field which, in that moment, would have similar tyre wear and fuel loads. His team mate and number two driver was a good 8 tenths quicker after the first round of stops, both having the same option tyre.
Alonso never really ever had any expectation of finishing in the points, he was anticipating 13th or 14th but in reality, it was looking like last. His optimisms of improvements by Budapest are equally cool.
We should see this as the final nail in the coffin for the Honda bond. I believe he took the penalties on the new engine tactically for Silverstone as a clean sheet on a fast track where traffic is rarely a problem. To learn as much as possible for a final Hungarian push, have a contractual review, decide if legal obligations have been met on both sides and move on. Hungry now, will be meaning nothing.
Isn’t this wait all so unnecessary? It is fair to suggest that things would have to improve by more of a margin than seems feasible. It would be the biggest turnaround in the history of Formula 1. So with the Hungarian Grand Prix being the likely “line in the sand”, unless Hasegawa San has a magic wand up his sleeve, it just makes sense in every way for both sides to agree on an amicable separation. Neale’s statement this week that “Contracts cannot simply be ripped up” is wrong. They can. If both sides of the dotted lines, feel the same it can simply be sorted. This means Honda is unwilling to do it. Why? Because at this very moment, if they part company with McLaren then they are out of F1.
The whole world knows that Zak Brown is talking to… well anyone who will listen, quite blatantly. Jonathan Neale of McLaren is also happy to publicly declare McLaren is talking to other suppliers. Let’s just get on with it. The world is waiting to see what happens when Alonso can talk freely and honestly about his wishes for 2018. The rest of the seats across the whole Paddock will then fall like dominos.
Renault looks like the most likely option for McLaren. Mercedes and Ferrari will be too concerned about one of their power units bolted into the back of a McLaren chassis in case the package shows the works teams up.
Honda was going to partner Sauber, a certain deal that soured somewhat, with the alleged sacking of Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn who had masterminded the deal. Toro Rosso, the Red Bull B team, who currently run Renault engines are rumoured to sign a deal with Honda. Why would you ditch a Renault engine for a Honda? Hope? Maybe of a long term advantage, but almost certainly financial. Honda will come with buckets of resources, and currently free engines. Renault are expensive.
This does make sense in other ways too. It would turn STR into a proper development B team. Driver progression and development, but also tactical in respect to power units. Red Bull have struggled with the underpowered Renault engine for the last few years, and during the struggle were very outspoken (for new kids), sometimes in my opinion bordering on rude. I have said before that this could have been a contributing factor in being unable to find a replacement. Mercedes or Ferrari would never put up with such insensitiveness, engine reputations are their business, Red Bull make fizzy drinks.
Should the Honda engine come good, and it is expected to, the Red Bull mothership will not only have first dibs, but also buckets of data, experience and testing to hit the ground running. Another (reliable) 40hp from Honda and a Newey chassis and the Milton Keynes based team are in a championship challenging position. I can’t see an engine coming from anywhere soon from anywhere else.
Ignoring the obvious it is fair to deduce that:
Stay with Mercedes. They are doing well and probably looking for a take over/rebrand soon. Might be waiting for Porsche in 2020
Stay with Mercedes. Open to being a works team and would probably love to have Honda as a best friend. They are a winning team and have a good driver line-up but the lack of aero developments are letting them down. I think they would need to get on the blower if they were to stand a chance of being counted. Maybe in a year or two.
Change Renault to Honda. The Red Bull B team, Honda, becomes a development team / development driver program for Red Bull which is a bit lacking at the moment. When Ricciardo takes Kimi’s seat at Ferrari…(!!)
Stay with Renault. And watch, no other choice.
Stay with Ferrari. Too much development and learning. The time it’s taking to get brake ventilation sorted could spell disaster if there was an engine change.
Stay with Ferrari. New team boss Frederic Vasseur is desperately trying to back pedal Honda power decisions made by recently fired Monisha. Vasseur seems to have been given the bank card and a healthy budget to get Sauber up the order. Naturally, he is likely to prefer to stay with current power units, even negotiate a better deal.
Honda > Renault