McLaren is desperate to have a competitive power unit for next season and let’s be honest, given the recent history, it seems unlikely that Honda is going to be able to provide that.
So even though it’s getting rather late in the season for teams to be thinking about switching engine suppliers it appears McLaren is still courting another manufacturer.
With Mercedes and Ferrariconfirming long ago that they won’t be supplying McLaren with engines in 2018, that naturally led to speculation that Renault is still a viable option, purely because it hasn’t openly said no – which is a bit like suggesting Eddie Irvine is going to return to Ferrari to replace Sebastian Vettel next season because the team hasn’t actually denied it.
However Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul revealed that talks have been held with McLaren over the possibility of a partnership (does that mean Irvine is going to return to Ferrari too?!)
Speaking during the Belgian GP weekend, Abiteboul said:
“The situation is we have a multi-year contract with Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. So frankly we are open to discussions. I can confirm there have been discussions with McLaren, but right now there is a restriction in the regulation if we wanted to supply more than three teams.”
It doesn’t sound like Renault is particularly keen though, citing both the regulations and the potential knock-on affect supplying a fourth team could have on reliability.
“In addition to that, I don’t think it would be reasonable to believe that we could supply more than three without degrading the level of service, the quality of service, for the other teams. We have had discussions and frankly, we have [current] contracts in place. We value the relationship with Red Bull. It is a long-standing relationship and we would like to carry this relationship until 2020, but if there is something to be done, why not?
It sounds like Renault is more than open to the idea of supplying its engines to McLaren, but perhaps not unless another Renault team decided to end it’s contract. And with the Toro Rosso-Honda talks going quiet in recent weeks, that looks pretty unlikely.
So McLaren is back to square one and it looks like it’ll have to endure a fourth season with Honda in 2018. That might not be such a bad thing as the performance has been improving recently. It certainly can’t be much worse than it was this year, right?