Mercedes say McLaren must resolve Honda situation before 2018 talks
Wolff says Mercedes will only open talks with McLaren about 2018 engines if and when they decide to split with Honda; Mercedes boss also plays down chances of Alonso joining Hamilton in 2018
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 24/06/17 5:08pm
Mercedes do not want to interfere in any break-up of McLaren’s relationship with Honda and say they will only open talks with their former partners for 2018 engines if a split is formalised.
The prospect of the McLaren-Honda partnership continuing for 2018 appears increasingly unlikely after recent strong comments from senior members of the Woking team's hierarchy, amid their worst start to an F1 season.
Should McLaren initiate a split, then the widespread expectation is that Mercedes will step in to provide a customer supply of their power units for 2018.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 in Baku, Wolff indicated Mercedes' preference is for McLaren and Honda's relationship to continue, making clear that his team would only enter into talks about an alternative if the partnership reached the end of the road.
"Honda is super important brand in F1," Wolff told Sky F1.
"They've done extremely well in the past and we want to see them do well in a competitive McLaren.
"They need to sort out their relationship first. We don't want to get involved, our interest is a combination like this stays and if that were not to happen then we will have discussions."
McLaren are thought to have previously made a tentative approach to Mercedes about a supply deal in the wake of an unreliability-plagued pre-season with Honda's new 2017 engine.
Mercedes and McLaren have a long history together in F1. McLaren were Mercedes' 'works' team from 1995 to 2009 before the German manufacturer established their own outfit by buying the title-winning Brawn GP team.
Mercedes, who at one stage owned 40 per cent of the McLaren Group, then began a phased sale of their shares and although they continued supplying engines for several more years, that deal ended for 2015 when McLaren reunited with Honda.
Lewis Hamilton, who won his first world title in a McLaren-Mercedes, has welcomed the idea of his old and new team renewing formal acquaintances.
"It would be great for McLaren, great for the sport and it will be fantastic if it happens," Hamilton was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail in Baku.
But no route to Mercedes for Fernando Alonso?
Although a return to Mercedes power for next season would all-but guarantee a big move up the grid for McLaren, star driver Fernando Alonso has indicated that even that may not be enough to keep him at Woking for 2018.
Alonso told Sky Sports News HQ ahead of this weekend's Azerbaijan GP that, at 35, he was not willing to take a "gamble" on his drive for next season, with his only target being to win races again as he eyes a third world title.
Red Bull firmly closed the door on the Spaniard this week, and with a return to Ferrari still thought unlikely, world champions Mercedes therefore likely represent Alonso's only chance of a guaranteed race-winning seat.
Valtteri Bottas is not yet confirmed for 2018 but Mercedes have been pleased with the Finn's form alongside Lewis Hamilton, leaving a contract extension for the Russian GP winner a high possibility.
Red Bull rule out signing Alonso
And asked about the chance of teaming Alonso up with fellow former champion Hamilton, Wolff said that while "I rate Fernando a lot as a racing driver", he nonetheless hinted strongly that such a blockbuster line-up was unlikely.
"He's a very complete racing driver but you need to see the scene within the overall circumstances - within the history of Mercedes, in the team, with Lewis," Wolff added to Sky F1. "It's about how the drivers work together, how they make the car go faster and therefore the dynamic is very important.
"Lewis in the car doesn't go any better and as a personality he is who he is. I wouldn't want anybody else in the car on a difficult day."
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