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.com, McLaren 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.