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McLaren-Honda partnership possibly on its last legs

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Following dismal performance after dismal performance all year, it is alleged the British team and the Japanese manufacturer will end their relationship.

McLaren Honda Monza

British team McLaren, historically one of the most successful in all of Formula One, are likely to end their partnership imminently, if reports are to be believed. The relationship between the two has been frayed for a while with McLaren suffering under the substandard motors provided by Honda.

This information comes immediately after the news that Austrian team Red Bull Racing have decided to terminate their partnership with French manufacturers Renault. 

Of the 12 Grands Prix raced so far this year, Fernando Alonso has retired from 5 – most recently at the Italian Grand Prix, while teammate Jenson Button had four of his own, and did not start the Bahrain Grand Prix due to engine problems. 

Alonso, a two-time world champion – both times with works team Renault, did not score at all this season untl 9 races into the season. His first points – which in fact were a single point, came at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. He got his only points there and at the Hungaroring a fortnight later, finishing in 5th. 

Teammate Button, who was the world champion in 2009, has had as many points finishes as his teammate – 2, with an 8th place finish at Monaco and 9th at Hungary. 

Prior to race day at the Italian Grand Prix, Alonso had said there was “no hope for McLaren at Monza.” With a massive 10mph lag behind their rivals on the straights, the team fell seriously behind on their teammates, and were both knocked out of Q1, with Button and Alonso finishing 16th and 17th in qualifying respectively. 

McLaren’s chief motorsport officer, Yasuhisa Arai, was subjected to what Sky Sports F1 described as a “brutal media grilling” following the qualifying session at Monza. Assembled media repeatedly asked Arai if he would resign in light of the dismal performances the team were putting out race after race despite having two world championship-winning drivers on the team.

He was asked several times if he had apologised to both drivers for the team's faults, replying that he had “nothing to apologise for”, also suggesting that Honda’s engines had “25bhp” more power than Renault’s, a number and statement he later went on to redact. Arai also said McLaren had “identified problems” and was working on improving them in 2016.

Although Alonso previously said he intended to stay with McLaren, his continued dissatisfaction with its vehicles and instructions may suggest otherwise. Button has recently described his future at McLaren as ‘uncertain’, although he has also said he intends to stay with the team till the end of his Formula One career.

It is now being said McLaren bosses have “written to” Honda president Takahiro Hachigo to have Arai replaced. 

Their performance on race day was just as dismal if not more so than qualifying, with Button finishing without points in 14th. Alonso was classified as 15th by the end of the race, although he retired with 3 laps to go following more engine issues. 

The team will look forward to the next Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore, which is known for being a low-speed, twisting circuit – benefical to the McLarens. Meanwhile, team Mercedes and their driver Lewis Hamilton have tightened their stranglehold over the constructors’ and drivers’ championships with a race win at Monza.


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