McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says Honda supplying another team next year would come with “a price to pay” for the team, despite the obvious benefits of additional data.
Honda is the only one of Formula One’s four engine manufacturers to supply just a single team, which has been the case since it returned to the grid with McLaren in 2015. Though McLaren has resisted Honda’s push for another customer team in recent years the drawbacks of a single supply became clear over the winter as the Japanese manufacturer struggled with reliability issues, meaning the team left Barcelona with significantly less mileage than its rivals.
Speculation has been building about Sauber taking Honda engines for the 2018 season and Boullier admits McLaren is open to the idea — so long as it is not “detrimental” to the team.
“More teams is better, more teams running is better definitely, [but] there’s always a price to pay for that which is obviously deviating our resources to maybe build more engines,” Boullier said. “Whatever happens, we are partners, so at some stage there will be a second team, and I think we will have to support this. But we have to make sure it’s not detrimental to our partnership with Honda.”
For the third year in a row Honda finds itself significantly behind the other three manufacturers. Though a customer team would have given the team more track time and useful data to attempt to overcome those issues, Boullier does not think it would have changed anything in the last two years.
When asked if it would have been detrimental for Honda to have had another customer team before 2017, Boullier replied: “Yes. I still believe it’s easier today to be honest. I think we review all the scenarios, say we open all the offices, we need to hold the files.
“Today I think we have a more or less clear path where to go and how in terms of faster and not guaranteed because we can’t guarantee anything…… but a recovery plan, I think we have something falling into place. Then we can focus or be distracted with another team and support us. We need first to have this recovery plan, three years in a row being where we are, it’s not possible now, so we have to break through and step up.”