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McLaren ‘very close’ to agreeing new F1 deal with Alonso

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McLaren is “very close” to agreeing a new Formula 1 contract with Fernando Alonso beyond the end of the 2017 season, according to team racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren announced last week in Singapore it would be splitting with struggling engine supplier Honda at the end of the season, linking up with Renault from 2018.

The decision was made in a bid to lift the team to the front of the field, having struggled for much of the past three years while working with Honda.

Alonso has made no secret of his frustration throughout the three-year stint, prompting the Spaniard to consider his future with McLaren upon the expiration of his contract at the end of the year.

With the driver market closing up, Alonso looks poised to remain with McLaren for 2018, but said in Singapore he is considering options in many series.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Boullier expressed his confidence in Alonso staying for 2018, saying a deal was “very close”.

“Fernando wants to stay. You can see it in his body language and the way he speaks,” Boullier added.

“There are marketing details that have to be sorted out, and that Zak [Brown, McLaren executive director] is working on.”

Despite suggestions of an ultimatum regarding its Honda partnership being issued to McLaren by Alonso, Boullier stressed that the team made the decision to switch to Renault by its own accord, with the drivers then fitting in afterwards for its 2018 plans.

“McLaren’s DNA is to be competitive. The team has always been in the top three and we belong there again,” Boullier said.

“Today we know that we have a decent chassis, which would allow us to be in the top three again with an equal level engine.

“So for us as a business it is important to be competitive, no matter what role Fernando plays. We had to make a decision for us.

“But if you want to be competitive you not only need an engine, you also need a driver. That is when Fernando comes into the picture.

“We did what we did for McLaren first, but the package includes also the driver.”

Boullier: Honda F1 deal ‘a proper disaster’ for McLaren’s credibility

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McLaren’s three-year stint with Formula 1 engine partner Honda has been a “proper disaster” for the team’s credibility, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren announced last Friday in Singapore it would be parting company with Honda at the end of the season, switching to Renault power units for 2018.

The confirmation put an end to months of uncertainty surrounding the future of the McLaren-Honda partnership, which has seen the British team struggle towards the back of the field since 2015.

McLaren faces a big task to recover the lost financial support from Honda while also trying to attract new sponsors, but Boullier is confident the decision to change engine partner will help its cause.

“When you look at the last three years, it’s been a proper disaster for us in terms of credibility and getting new sponsors,” Boullier told the official F1 website.

“And then you have to take the long-term view: in the next five years I am absolutely sure that we will go back to where McLaren belongs.

“And with this bouncing back we get our credibility back and it will rebuild our sponsor portfolio. It might take two to three years.

“We are ninth in the championship – with a top engine I think we would be fourth right now and just on the FOM money we could cover the engine side, so it will not be a big risk on the monetary side.

“Thanks to the shareholders who have been brave enough to take a sporting choice and not hurt McLaren. They could have said: ‘Let’s wait until Honda wakes up’.”

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.”

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.

Eric Boullier: McLaren would be winning in F1 with Mercedes engines

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McLaren Formula 1 racing director Eric Boullier believes the team would be back winning races if it had Mercedes power instead of working with current partner Honda.

McLaren and Mercedes enjoyed a successful partnership in F1 between 1995 and 2014, claiming three drivers’ championships and two constructors’ titles in that period.

McLaren cut ties with Mercedes at the end of 2014 due to the latter’s focus on its factory team, and rekindled its famous partnership with Honda that ruled F1 in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

However, such form has not been forthcoming, with the relationship between McLaren and Honda at maximum strain after a difficult pre-season test period filled with reliability issues.

McLaren’s current race win drought dates back to the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, and it hasn’t scored a podium since Australia 2014.

Speaking to Spanish publication AS, Boullier said he is sure McLaren would be winning races if it still worked with Mercedes instead of Honda.

“I think we would. Yes, we’d be winning again,” Boullier conceded, before admitting that McLaren had to be competitive if it wanted to keep Fernando Alonso on its books.

Two-time world champion Alonso has made his frustration regarding Honda’s power unit clear in recent weeks, and is now in the final year of his McLaren contract.

“He wants to be competitive because he has talent to show the world and to himself,” Boullier said.

“We need to be competitive to keep him happy. If we’re competitive he’ll be happy.

“If not, he’ll take his own decisions.”