Frederic Vasseur insisted the decision for the Sauber F1 Team to end the planned partnership with Honda from the 2018 Formula 1 season was done mutually, and he thanked the Japanese engine supplier for the discussions they’ve had over the past ten days.
The recently-installed Team Principal of the Hinwil-based squad hopes a replacement engine supplier can be found sooner rather than later, preferably before the summer break and factory shutdown.
“We did it mutually,” said Vasseur. “I think the start of the discussion between Honda and Sauber was eight months ago, and the situation changed drastically on both sides.
“We reached the stage that at one point it was better for everybody to stop the discussion. We did it in a very fair way with Honda, and I would like to thank them for the discussion we had over the last 10 days. But it was a good thing for me.
“And the second part of the discussion is that now we’ve stopped the discussion with Honda, we have to find a new one [partner]. We have not so many engine suppliers in the paddock, and we will be able to close the deal quite soon.
“The sooner the better, for sure. We need to move forward on the design of the car, and we have to take a decision. I hope that we will be able to do it before the shutdown.”
Vasseur admits that without the Honda deal, the possibility of using a McLaren gearbox next season has also gone, meaning any deal will need to involve both the engine and gearbox in a package, especially as the team would not be able to develop a gearbox themselves for next season.
The team have been linked with a potential move to Mercedes-power from next season, but the odds are on a continuation with Ferrari, who have been a long-time engine supplier to Sauber.
“On one hand we are in quite a tough situation in terms of pace, and we need to have a reference,” said Vasseur. “On the Honda side we don’t know exactly what will happen with the McLaren deal. It’s also a tricky situation for us.
“In our situation we need to find a global deal, engine and gearbox, we won’t be able to build up our own gearbox next year, and we are discussing for a global position.”
Vasseur insists that the team will not settle for a year-old engine for a second consecutive season, especially as it would mean another season where other teams could gain an advantage by having updates during the year, something the team have been lacking this year with the 2016 Ferrari engine.
“I think it’s a key point,” insisted Vasseur. “We are in a tough situation this season. First you have no update during the season, no update of fuel, lubricants and so on.
“I think at some stage it’s probably more difficult to motivate everybody in the team if you start the season with the engine of the previous year.
“It’s not a matter of money. I think it’s important for the team. I don’t want to speak about the company, but for the team, for every single person in the team, to be sure we are pushing like hell on every single department.
“The engine is one part of the discussion, and we need to have the last spec of the engine, for sure.”