It’s like your friends and family say after a break up. “Don’t take them back, move on, it won’t be the same a second time around.” McLaren and Honda must now both be regretting not following that advice. It shows what a cruel mistress Formula 1 can be, and most importantly that past performance is never a guarantee of future success.
The deal announced back in 2013 was met with great excitement. A return to the great days of yore for the mighty McLaren team and their old allies, the guys at Honda. The nostalgia was huge, and it was hoped that the Woking outfit could return to the top where they belonged. In theory this was a wise move.
Having realised that the 2014 rule changes would propel engines into the limelight as the most important element of a modern Formula 1 car, McLaren could no longer be a customer anymore. They needed to have sole dibs on an engine. Having Honda to themselves made sense. It drew Fernando Alonso away from Ferrari, the Spaniard hoped the team/engine combination could help him challenge for a 3rd championship.
It is easy to make counterpoints with the benefit of hindsight. However, looking back now, in 2013 Honda had not been properly successful in Formula 1 since they had left McLaren in 1992. Yes there had been a win thanks to Jenson Button in 2006, and of course the Brawn GP car was a Honda in effect, but it had a Mercedes in it let’s not forget. Honda had a pretty tough time of it as supplier to BAR in the early noughties and even buying the team out did little to improve the fortunes of the Japanese manufacturer. Perhaps somebody should have considered this before the McLaren Honda deal was signed. In reality, did Honda have the ability to cut it in Formula 1 anymore?
The previous three years of misery would suggest that the answer is no. Honda’s inability to provide a fast and reliable engine has led to one of the ugliest break ups in F1 history and has certainly tainted the reputation of a duo that once enjoyed so much success.
I am not saying that McLaren are entirely innocent in all of this, but their seemed to be a lack of communication from Honda. Fibs if you will. This year in particular. After 2 years of turmoil, Honda at the beginning of the season had said that they had cracked it and would be a match for the Ferrari engine. We now know that was a big fat dirty lie.
Neither party has enjoyed this break up, it has certainly been much uglier than the first time around in 1992 (which always happens come on guys). Honda’s reputation has been wrecked, a year with Toro Rosso will be pretty welcome. McLaren have, in effect, lost out on 3 years worth of competitive running and are now back as customers with an engine that is worse than they gave up in 2014. Ouch.
Oh and Fernando Alonso, their biggest asset, could still walk. Double Ouch.
Break ups are always hard. But you should never go back, no matter how good the good times were.