In April this year Sauber trumpeted the announcement that they had concluded a deal to be powered by Honda in 2018, at the time it was seen as an interesting development at Hinwil.
The deal was struck between then team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and Honda’s Formula 1 project managers, she said of the deal at the time, “It is a great honor for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons.”
She added, “Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda. We thank Honda for making this great partnership happen.”
Honda confirmed the contract, “In addition to the partnership with McLaren which began in 2015, Honda will begin supplying power units to Sauber as a customer team starting from next year.”
“This will be a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities. In order to leverage the benefits of supplying to two teams to the maximum extent, we will strengthen the systems and capabilities of both of our two development operations, namely HRD Sakura and the operation in Milton Keynes.”
This was three months ago, but since then much has changed at Sauber as Kaltenborn parted ways with Sauber – the team now headed by Formula 1 newbie Pascal Picci citing diverging views as a catalyst for the the split.
No it transpires that the new powers that be within the team are not so keen on the deal with Honda. After all the Japanese manufacturer is struggling to deliver a competitive and reliable power unit and it seems there is little light at the end of the tunnel.
While Mercedes and Ferrari have the capacity to deliver competitive customer power units, which as things are now will be better than the best Honda have to offer for the foreseeable future.
Honda have already started the extending their F1 infrastructure to cater for an extra team, and are waiting for Sauber to confirm a deal which they thought was done and dusted.
F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa told Racer that he expected Sauber to commit 100% to the new deal with immediate effect and said, “We cannot wait for next year’s preparations so we are working on it already.”
Despite the uncertainty Hasegawa revealed that his team have done the ground work and are gearing up to supply Sauber, “From the plan point of view we are already working on [the Sauber engine supply in 2018]. So we need to fix the plans, but we will just continue as we are for now. So far, no change.”
Meanwhile Sauber have appointed Frédéric Vasseur to the post of team Managing Director & CEO, the Frenchman no doubt aware of the engine supply quandary said, “The Honda question is on the table. It’s the first one I’m going to work on. We need to take care of this quickly. In light of what I hear from McLaren, it can be scary.”
Big Question: Should Sauber stick with new Honda deal or ditch them for Mercedes or Ferrari customer engines?