Eric Boullier, racing director at the McLaren-Honda Formula One Team, has said that a decision on who will be the team’s engine supplier for 2018 must be made by September.
Although a contract exists between McLaren and current engine supplier Honda for next year, a continued relationship is in doubt given the troublesome period the outfits have endured since the start of their current contract in 2015.
Of McLaren’s other engine supply options, both Mercedes and Ferrari have made it clear they will not supply McLaren with their engines for next season and beyond. Unless McLaren can force a change of heart in either Mercedes of Ferrari, it will likely see the Woking-based team approach Renault about a deal, or stick it out with Honda.
Asked by motorsport.com how late a team could leave such a decision, Boullier said:“Technically you could change an engine in 12 weeks.
“You can change it anytime before the season up to three months before. If you want to do a base design around an engine, it’s September.”
Any decision would have a bearing on McLaren’s other headache for 2018: will Fernando Alonso stay with the team?
Alonso has previously stated a deadline of September for a decision to be made about his own future and will likely want a quick resolution to McLaren’s engine supply dilemma so he can make a fully informed decision.
As for Honda themselves, motorsport chief Yusuke Hasegawa has said that the Japanese manufacturer’s priority is to continue with McLaren, now Honda’s only option after the Sauber F1 Team reneged on their contract for 2018.
“There is no doubt we would like to stick with McLaren,” Hasegawa said. “I think they are getting better performance.”
Indeed, McLaren managed to finish with both cars in the points in the recent Hungarian Grand Prix for the first time this season, but the result is yet to be confirmed as a circuit-specific performance or a genuine, long-lasting improvement.