McLaren set engine deadline amid Renault speculation
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[July 31, 2017]
By Alan Baldwin
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - McLaren say the
next five weeks will be the key to deciding which engine they will
use next season, with speculation mounting that the former world
champions could ditch Honda and switch to Renault.
Chief operating officer Jonathan Neale told Reuters at the Hungarian
Grand Prix that "everybody is talking to everybody", but time was
"We’ve got to land those decisions in the next four or five weeks,"
he said, speaking from a design perspective and because drivers like
McLaren's Fernando Alonso were waiting to see what engines teams had
before committing to new deals.
"I think there is a solution out there for everybody and I hope it’s
one that will be able to retain Fernando in this team."
McLaren scored their first double-points finish of the season in
Budapest on Sunday with double world champion Alonso finishing
sixth, a day after his 36th birthday, and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne
The nine points lifted McLaren off the bottom of the standings just
before the August break and factory shutdown, a result that Neale
compared to scoring a goal before half time.
Alonso's future is a key concern, with the Spaniard out of contract
and saying McLaren need to provide a competitive car to keep him.
Honda's power unit has been beset with problems since the
partnership started in 2015, the engine neither reliable nor
Hungary, the slowest permanent circuit on the calendar, reduced
those shortcomings, but the next two races in Belgium and Italy are
two of the fastest, where engine horsepower is of critical
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McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne during practice REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh
McLaren are Honda's sole team in Formula One. A proposed partnership
with Sauber terminated last week with the Swiss team choosing to
stay with Ferrari.
A split from McLaren could force the Japanese manufacturer out of
the sport, but Neale hinted at an alternative.
"You’ll have seen the media speculation that there’s discussions
with Toro Rosso," he said.
Toro Rosso use Renault engines, but a switch to Honda -- which could
bring welcome funding to a team whose Red Bull parent has considered
a sale in the past -- would free the French units for McLaren.
The Renault engine has won a race this season with Red Bull and
could satisfy Alonso, who won both his titles with the French
The other alternatives to Honda are Mercedes and Ferrari, but Neale
recognized that putting a Ferrari engine in a McLaren, the Italian
team's historic arch-rivals, was highly unlikely.
"I’m hoping that by the time we get through September, we’ll be able
to come out and say something more publicly," said Neale.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Larry King)
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