McLaren 'near our limit' with Honda as Zak Brown issues warning
Zak Brown says McLaren reaching a "fork in the road" with beleaguered Honda; Planned Canadian GP engine upgrade delayed
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/06/17 10:30am
McLaren have given their strongest indication yet they are considering a future without Honda, after Zak Brown said they have "serious concerns" about their engine provider's title-winning potential.
In the third year of the revived partnership, eight-time constructors' champions McLaren are the only team yet to score a point in 2017 and sit bottom of the standings with their season compromised by a myriad of engine problems.
In an interview with Reuters, Brown confirmed a planned engine upgrade for this weekend's Canadian GP had been delayed and said that, despite no shortage of effort, Honda "seem a bit lost" with their F1 programme.
"I don't want to get into what our options are. Our preference is to win the world championship with Honda," Brown, McLaren's executive director, told the news agency.
"But at some point you need to make a decision as to whether that's achievable. And we have serious concerns.
"Missing upgrades, and upgrades not delivering to the level we were told they were going to, you can only take that so long. And we're near our limit."
Brown added: "A year in Formula 1 is an eternity. Three years is a decade. And you just can't go on forever."
After giving up a customer supply of Mercedes engines, McLaren lured Honda back to F1 in 2015 with the intention of recreating their era of dominance from the late 1980s and early 1990s when the combination won a succession of world championships.
However, Honda's return has been beset by performance and reliability problems and McLaren are yet to finish on the podium, with their last race victory coming over four years ago.
Their run of six races without a point at the start of 2017 represents the team's worst start to a season.
Brown, who joined McLaren last November, has continuously stressed the Woking team's commitment to Honda but says they are now reaching a 90-day period in which decisions have to be made.
"It will all come together," said Brown. "There's lots of things that go into the decision and we're entering that window now of 'which way do you go when you come to the fork in the road'."
After a torrid pre-season with Honda's redesigned engine, reports suggested McLaren's management sounded out Mercedes about the possibility of using a customer supply of their championship-winning power units.
Former McLaren chief Ron Dennis long argued that teams had to have a works partnership to win F1 titles in the current hybrid era.
But although Brown believes the team were right to reunite with Honda, he believes customer teams can still prosper.
"Do I think you can win with a customer engine? I think you can," he said.
Former McLaren driver Nigel Mansell, who also won races with Honda engines when the manufacturer powered Williams in the mid-1980s, suspects the writing could be on the wall for the partnership.
"I feel very sorry for both of them," the 1992 world champion told Sky Sports News HQ.
"I was in a great position to be with Honda when their engines were the best in the world back in the 80s. It's unfortunately been the perfect storm the wrong way with McLaren-Honda and they must both feel things are incredibly difficult and there are some serious decisions to be taken going forward.
"Probably nobody would be surprised what they might be."
Although Honda have walked away from F1 before, most recently in 2008, the Japanese manufacturer reiterated their commitment to F1 in April by signing a deal with Sauber to supply the Swiss team with power units from next season.
McLaren, meanwhile, are keen to tie Fernando Alonso to a new contract beyond the end of 2017.
However, the Spaniard recently warned he would only stay if the team showed they were capable of challenging at the front in 2018, with McLaren racing director Eric Boullier admitting the team had to achieve "mission impossible" to retain the two-time world champion.
Can Mercedes hit back in the 2017 title fight with Ferrari? Don't miss the Canadian GP live only on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. The race starts at 7pm on Sunday. Watch the race for £6.99 on NOW TV
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