Honda seek further engine customer, Toro Rosso rumoured to be favourites


McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team MCL32 & Scuderia Toro Rosso STR12. Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Now that their deal to supply the Sauber F1 Team with engines in 2018 has gone pear-shaped, Honda has confirmed it is in talks with other F1 teams.

The Japanese manufacturer had been looking to add a further customer team to its programme, in the hope that the extra data and information available would help them to develop their flagging engine more quickly.

Sauber had agreed terms in principle, but backed out of the deal when new Team Principal Frederic Vasseur took over at the helm last month, the Frenchman opting to stick with Scuderia Ferrari power instead.

That leaves Honda with the McLaren F1 team as their sole partner in 2018, but even the Woking based squad are currently in the process of deciding whether to stick with the Japanese manufacturer next year or switch suppliers, and so Honda could realistically be left high and dry.

With that in mind, Honda have decided to cover all eventualities by initiating discussions with other potential customers, and Scuderia Toro Rosso are believed to be one of the most interested parties, as Honda General Manager Masashi Yamamoto explained to Motorsport.com recently.

“We are talking to teams – other than works outfits like Ferrari and Mercedes – to see if there is an opportunity to do a customer supply deal.

“Meeting the schedule to achieve this for next year will be tough, but we still try to look for the opportunity to do so in 2018.

“If we don’t have a customer team, we want to continue with McLaren and then take on a customer team in addition for 2019.”

Yamamoto insisted however that Honda’s main concern right now is fully on its allegiance with McLaren, and rectifying the current reliability issues with the power unit that have plagued the Woking based squad’s last two and a half season’s

“Right now, we believe we are working in the same direction as McLaren. We feel McLaren is still committed to making this project work.

“It’s not that we can’t provide a good power unit, it’s that we can’t reach the expectations that were originally set for the partnership yet.”

He also gave Honda’s side of the story on why the deal with Sauber fell through.

“We were working in the same direction for next year; however, some of the details had not been decided, such as running a Japanese driver or other activities.

“For example, they have some facilities which we could use for other categories.

“When the deal was agreed with Monisha, the idea of collaboration for other categories was OK, but they have changed their attitude [following her departure].”

One interesting twist in this tale, is that should Toro Rosso decide to go with Honda power in 2018, it would leave a potential opening with Renault, who had stated they did not want to take on an additional fourth customer next year, for McLaren to make the switch.

There will no doubt be plenty of discussions held throughout the summer break, ahead of McLaren’s confirmation of with whom their future lies.