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McLaren, Honda ‘never been so close’ to parting ways

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McLaren Formula 1 racing director Eric Boullier says the team has “never been so close” to parting company with engine partner Honda as it considers its options for 2018 and beyond.

McLaren and Honda rekindled their historic partnership in 2015, but the results of the Senna/Prost era have been a world away as the power unit has lacked both performance and reliability, leaving the British team at the foot of the constructors’ championship.

Executive director Zak Brown said earlier this week that McLaren and Honda were nearing “a fork in the road”, with the mounting problems prompting the team to consider whether its commitment to Honda is worth extending.

Speaking in Montreal ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Boullier echoed Brown’s comments, saying that the relationship has never been closer to breaking down.

“We have never been so close to that fork. The performance went backwards,” Boullier said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“We have the support from our executive committee to sort this out because we can’t go on like this, going backwards.

“Like any professional organization you sit down and say ‘we have to speak about targets, speak about commitment’, and we can’t miss targets constantly.

“That is where the fork in the road comes from.”

The recent frustration out of McLaren has come as a result of Honda failing to deliver a power unit update for Canada, with the team’s own chassis development appearing strong.

“Our own development program is totally independent from the engine side. We were expecting an engine update for this weekend, and all the discussions we have now are the result of not having it,” Boullier said.

“It’s not about disappointment. It is about frustration. When you don’t have results at a team like McLaren, that is frustrating.

“But it was never only developing an excellent chassis but also developing the company and despite all the stories around us, the poor performance on track and so on, we have an excellent spirit in the team.

“As I just said it is not about disappointment, but all about frustration.

“There is a point now where we need to have the same commitment and efficiency from our partners.”

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”