Following months of poor performance, technical setbacks, and barely scoring any points, McLaren Honda has been dealt another blow to its Formula 1 program with Sauber cancelling its engine supply deal for next season the BBC reports.
The cancellation isn’t a surprise as the beleaguered Honda hasn’t made much if any progress on its lackluster and unreliable 2017 engine program. Race after race, the team has had problems with the engine that range from not enough power, to electrical issues with the hybrid battery, to oil cooling issues. Many of which saw the team retire the car early much to the chagrin of its two race drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
After appointing a new team principal, Frederic Vasseur, in June, the Swiss-run team said they made the decision for “strategic reasons, with the best intent for Sauber’s future in mind.” This comes as just another blow to Honda, as McLaren is rumored to be looking at other engine suppliers as well with both Renault and Mercedes-AMG being the frontrunners.
Currently, Sauber uses Ferrari-sourced engines, but hasn’t disclosed as to whether it will strike another deal with the Maranello supplier. The team did announced that a statement regarding which engine supplier the team will use next season will be made shortly and early frontrunners are both Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG.
With this latest blow, and the rumors of McLaren shopping engines and no other teams on the grid lining up for Honda engines, it remains unclear as to whether or not Honda will even participate in Formula 1 next season.
After this week’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Formula 1 heads into a four-week summer break that will allow some much needed time for Honda to figure out what exactly is wrong with its engine. If the team and engineers can find a fix by the start of the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, and stay competitive throughout the rest of the season, it still has a chance to stay. But if it can’t, it’s unlikely Honda will be on next year’s grid.