McLaren’s longest F1 driver, David Coulthard, said that if McLaren-Honda becomes competitive during the 2017 Formula 1 season. It would be a ‘Houdini-like’ achievement.
During an event that was promoting Channel 4’s F1 television coverage, Coulthard told Motorsport that the issues they have with the Honda power unit are just too big. There are reliability issues and a lack of horsepower, which don’t go hand in hand with development. Even if Honda’s engines improve, they are still far away to be genuinely competitive this year just because of the pace of the racing season.
David Coulthard questioned whether Honda had a long-term future in F1 given their poor performance since returning in 2015. McLaren’s MCL32 faced serious reliability issues throughout the pre-season testing at Barcelona. It barely completed half of the number of laps run by benchmark Mercedes. McLaren is determined to stay around the F1 scene, but whether Honda is going to or not, is another question.
As reported by Diario AS, McLaren’s part owner Mansour Ojjeh has already been in touch with Mercedes to try and switch engine suppliers. It shall come to no surprise, as McLaren’s relationship with Honda has started to sour. McLaren’s race director Eric Boulier said that Honda doesn’t understand the F1 racing culture. What he means is that the way they race and behave in Formal 1 is driven by a calendar, by some fixed targets, fixed dates, lap time gains, which means that they always try to go to the best solution as fast as possible.
Honda is still behaving like a corporate company, they are way too slow, less agile, and with that attitude, they can’t fit in the racing culture. Despite having built a remote engine workshop in England, Honda has kept their main base in Japan, which makes the whole operation too slow for today’s F1.
On top of that, this isn’t the first time McLaren has complained about Honda’s restrictive method of working, but they’ve never done it so openly.