Sauber cancel Honda deal
Sauber cite 'strategic reasons' for split; Honda claim termination was by "mutual consent" and insist they remain committed to F1
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 01/08/17 9:51pm
Sauber have cancelled their planned partnership with Honda for the 2018 Formula 1 season for "strategic reasons".
The Swiss outfit, currently powered by a year-old supply of Ferrari engines, announced as recently as April they would join forces with Honda next year.
But speculation the proposed tie-up was in danger first surfaced when Monisha Kaltenborn, the Sauber team principal when the original deal was signed, was replaced by Fred Vasseur in June.
According to Honda, who have endured a torrid return to F1 since reuniting with McLaren in 2015 and whose engines are considered to be the least reliable and powerful on the grid, the termination of the planned partnership is as a result of 'differences in the future direction between Honda and Sauber'.
"During discussions after management changes at the team, we reached a mutual agreement to call-off the project due to differences in the future directions of both parties," said Honda chief Masashi Yamamoto.
An announcement on Sauber's new engine suppliers for 2018 will be made 'shortly'.
"We had to take a decision and I think it was a good one," Vasseur told Sky Sports F1.
"We have to be quicker and the engine is part of the deal - but not only the engine but also the gearbox and potentially the drivers. We had to consider all the aspects of the discussion."
The termination raises the stakes in McLaren's own deliberations over whether to stick with Honda in 2018. Were the fallen superpowers, the only team currently below Sauber in the Constructors' Championship, to divorce Honda at the end of the year then it would almost certainly result in the Japanese manufacturers leaving F1 and the sport beginning 2018 with just three engine makers on board.
However, Yamamoto has said that "Honda's passion for motorsports and strong commitment to Formula One remains unchanged."'
As for Sauber, one possibility is that they will seek a deal with Mercedes, whose engines are recognised to be the class of the field. But that in turn could have serve repercussions for McLaren and potentially block any hopes they have of reforging the partnership with Mercedes they had before returning to Honda power three years ago.
Alternatively, Sauber could strengthen their existing relationship with Ferrari, with speculation already rife they could hire one of the Scuderia's reserve drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi or Charles Leclerc, for 2018 as part of any new deal.
Full statement from Sauber
'The technological partnership between the Sauber F1 Team and Honda, which was intended to start from 2018 onwards, is no longer in place. The new Sauber engine partner will be announced shortly.
'Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal:
"It is very unfortunate that we have to discontinue the planned collaboration with Honda at this stage. However, this decision has been made for strategic reasons, and with the best intent for the future of the Sauber F1 Team in mind. We would like to thank Honda for their collaboration, and wish them all the best for their future in Formula One."'
Full statement from Honda
'Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today announced the technological partnership with the Sauber F1 Team, which was intended to start from 2018 onwards for the FIA* Formula One World Championship (F1), is no longer in place.
'This project, that originated after an initial proposal from Sauber, has been called-off due to differences in the future direction between Honda and Sauber, recognized during the preparation process for power unit supply systems.
'Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager, Motor Sports Division, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
"We had built a good relationship with Sauber, and had been looking forward to entering the 2018 F1 season together. However, during discussions after management changes at the team, we reached a mutual agreement to call-off the project due to differences in the future directions of both parties. We would like to thank Sauber for their cooperation, and wish them all the best for their future.
'Despite this announcement, Honda's passion for motorsports and strong commitment to Formula One remains unchanged."'
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