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McLaren approaches Mercedes over possible F1 engine supply

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McLaren has made a provisional approach to former engine supplier Mercedes over a possible deal regarding Formula 1 powers units, according to multiple reports out on Thursday.

McLaren enjoyed a long-running partnership with Mercedes between 1995 and 2014, yielding drivers’ championships in 1998, 1999 and 2008, as well as one constructors’ crown in that period.

McLaren cut ties with Mercedes at the end of 2014 as the latter’s factory team became its focus, moving to rekindle its partnership with Honda that ruled over F1 in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Such form has been hard to repeat, with Honda instead struggling to catch up with the other power unit suppliers in F1, resulting in continued struggles for McLaren.

The issues came to a head in pre-season testing when drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were forced to sit on the sidelines for much of the running.

The ongoing struggles have led to questions about McLaren and Honda’s future that only intensified following reports on Thursday that the team was exploring other options.

As per BBC Sport and motorsport.comMcLaren has made what the former called an “exploratory approach” regarding an engine supply from Mercedes in the future should its deal with Honda come to an early end.

Mercedes has one F1 engine supply up for grabs after originally planning to work with the Manor team in 2017 before its closure in January.

The German manufacturer’s power units have been the class of the field since the introduction of V6 turbos in 2014, with the works Mercedes team winning three straight world title doubles.

However, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier stressed over testing that McLaren and Honda remained committed to one another and were working hard to get through the current rough patch of form.

McLaren has not won a race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, and last scored a podium finish in 2014 at the season-opener in Australia. Since teaming up with Honda, it has finished no higher than sixth in the constructors’ championship.

The new F1 season kicks off at Albert Park in Melbourne in March 26.

Hamilton, Red Bull teammates both go to NASA before USGP

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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One of the more intriguing United States Grand Prix adventures occurred on Wednesday, as both Lewis Hamilton and the pair of Red Bull Racing teammates, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, all went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – in separate sessions – before heading onto Austin.

Hamilton posted on his Instagram story on Wednesday that he’d “quit his day job in a second” to work at NASA and become an astronaut, and the unbridled enthusiasm spoke to the three-time Formula 1 World Champion’s love of different life aspects entirely outside of racing.

“(I) had an incredible day yesterday, having a bit of a comedown today,” Hamilton said today at the FIA Press Conference. “I was just buzzed all day yesterday because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always something I’ve been fascinated about, space and space travel particularly.

“So to actually go there… and I had a million questions. I’m sure the guy got fed up with me. I asked a lot of questions and I got to see a lot of great things, some of the new technology they are working on and yeah, I want to go back.”

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team posted a gallery of Hamilton’s adventure on its website, linked here, and a few samples are below.

As for the Red Bull pair, the young duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen were equally awestruck by the experience.

“There really are a lot of similarities between this and F1, just the technology alone,” Ricciardo said. “I had a guest come to a race last year, when they got into the garage they were like: ‘this is like a space station’. We went to mission control here and it’s really like what we have in the Ops Room in Milton Keynes. Even the safety technology is similar. The astronauts go through the same measurements, a similar kind of HANS device etc. It’s really cool.”

Verstappen added, “There are quite a lot of comparisons, if you really want to talk about it we could go on for an hour! The control center looks pretty similar to ours. We share a lot of the same technology. It was really interesting for us to see that and I bet it would be the same if they could see ours.”

Here’s a link to Red Bull’s gallery and some teaser shots below.