The Sauber F1 team have announced they’ve cancelled their planned partnership with Honda over engines for the 2018 season due to “strategic reasons”.
The Swiss based team announced earlier on this season in April, that they intended to run Honda engines in their car for the 2018 season, rather than the year old Ferrari engines they’ve had the last few seasons. However, they team confirmed today in a statement that they would not be going forward with the deal. Frédéric Vasseur, the new team principal of Sauber had this to say on the matter.
“It is very unfortunate that we have to discontinue the planned collaboration with Honda at this stage. However, this decision has been made for strategic reasons, and with the best intent for the future of the Sauber F1 Team in mind. We would like to thank Honda for their collaboration, and wish them all the best for their future in Formula One.”‘
Honda, who have endured a less than stellar return to Formula 1 since their partnership with McLaren in 2015, said today that the termination of the planned partnership was a result of ‘differences in the future direction between Honda and Sauber’. When the deal was agreed in April Monisha Kaltenborn was the team principal of Sauber, though she left the team in June effective immediately to be replaced by Vasseur. Masashi Yamamoto, the general manager at Honda had this to say in response to the confirmation of the deal breaking down.
“We had built a good relationship with Sauber, and had been looking forward to entering the 2018 F1 season together. However, during discussions after management changes at the team, we reached a mutual agreement to call-off the project due to differences in the future directions of both parties. We would like to thank Sauber for their cooperation, and wish them all the best for their future. Honda’s passion for motorsports and strong commitment to Formula One remains unchanged.”
With Sauber now no longer an option for Honda in 2018, this raises even more questions over the engine providers future in the sport. McLaren, the team Honda are currently locked into a partnership with, are not happy at all with their current situation. Far from a return to the glory days of Prost and Senna, the McLaren-Honda partnership has been more of a nightmare, with the 2017 season currently having the distinction of being the team’s worst start to the season in their history. And if things carry on as they are, this could go down as possibly the worst season in McLaren’s history too. The team currently sit in last place in the constructors’ championship, behind the Sauber team. If McLaren were to break their contract at the end of the year with Honda, it would almost certainly lead to Honda having to leave the sport. Meaning there would just be the three engine providers in the sport again.
Sauber will now have to find a new engine deal for the 2018 season, with a suggestion being that they may seek to strengthen their existing relationship with Ferrari. Ferrari currently have two drivers on their books that would be welcome additions to Sauber. Substitute driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the start of the year for two races, or rising F2 superstar Charles Leclerc. Taking either of these drivers for 2018 could result in the Sauber team getting a fairer price on their engine deal, or maybe even a current Ferrari engine for 2018, rather than the year old power units they have been racing with. Alternatively, the team could try and do a similar deal with Mercedes, whose engines are recognised to be the class of the field. The team currently have the Mercedes young driver Wehrlein as one of their contracted drivers for 2017. So the team could do a deal that in exchange for a 2018 Mercedes engine, they keep Wehrlein at Sauber for another year.
The team are expected to make an announcement on their new engine suppliers for 2018 shortly.
Feature Image Credit: Sauber F1 Team Press Release