Honda: Our spirit will come back to fight for top three

Formula 1 engine supplier Honda, having parted ways with McLaren, is setting its sights on challenging among the top-three next season with new partners Toro Rosso, a senior executive said.

McLaren and Honda announced a long-awaited divorce on Friday, calling time on a troubled three-year partnership.

As part of the complex deal, McLaren will join forces with Renault who agreed a split with Toro Rosso, freeing the Red Bull-owned team to take up McLaren’s Honda supply starting next year.

The shake-up ends McLaren and Honda’s dream of recreating the glory years of the late 1980s and early 90s, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were dominant.

However, it does free Honda from a relationship that had grown increasingly fractious, mainly due to the unreliability and lack of performance of its engines, and marks the start of a new chapter for the Japanese manufacturer.

“It is true that we have gone through a very tough situation now and nobody was satisfied… especially the board,” Katsuhide Moriyama, Honda’s chief officer brand and communication, told reporters at the Singapore Grand Prix.

“It is our goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting with the frontrunners of the sport. Our spirit, Honda’s spirit, is going to come back and for next year our goal is to fight for the top three at the front of the grid.”

The McLaren-Honda combination has scored just 114 points since the pair renewed their once-iconic partnership at the start of 2015.

A more harmonious relationship with Toro Rosso and the desire to prove a point to McLaren may well fire Honda’s Formula One ambitions with fresh impetus.

But, given its struggles coming to terms with the sport’s turbo-hybrid engine formula and the fact that Toro Rosso has never finished higher than sixth in the constructors’ championship, will temper hopes that Honda can deliver on its top-three goal so soon.

The Faenza-based team’s boss Franz Tost was already playing down expectations his team could compete with their bigger rivals.

“Toro Rosso is not Ferrari, Mercedes, we have another infrastructure,” said Tost. “But I am convinced we are in a position to fight successfully within the midfield or the forward part of the midfield and the rest then we will see.”