Despite one leading engine guru claiming that he could not see anyone joining the current triumvirate of Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes in the F1 ranks when new regulations come into force next season, the paddock rumour mill continues to suggest that Honda will do so.
Renault Sport's Rob White last month dismissed suggestions that either Honda or Japanese rival Toyota would be interested in building a new F1 powerplant [ see separate story
], but reports from Germany now suggest that former Honda ally McLaren will have to cosy up to a new partner after failing to ink an extension to its current Mercedes deal.
According to Auto Motor und Sport
, the Woking team had until the end of April to decide whether or not to continue with Mercedes beyond the end of the 2014 season, but let its option lapse. With a deal unlikely to be struck with either Ferrari or Renault, the Honda rumour first mooted in March [ see separate story
] gathers strength.
The report claims that, by becoming the first to commit to Honda's return and being a development partner, McLaren would likely get its engines supplied free of charge – as was the case during its previous relationship between 1988-92 – which would be a valuable asset at a time when costs are set to rise for the teams around them.
It is understood that the price for the Honda engine has not yet been fixed, and the FIA is likely to stipulate that any supplier provide powerplants for a minimum of two teams. Although the rest of the field, with the exception of Marussia, appears content with its current partners, the report claims that both Ferrari-powered Sauber and Renault-motivated Lotus have expressed interest in Honda's return.
The next generation of Renault engines is rumoured to cost in the region of €20-23m, making it the most expensive on the market, with Mercedes reportedly reacting to the current economic climate by lowering its asking price to less than €20m for its basic package , and the Ferrari rumoured to be on offer for around €15-17m.