Honda puts off driver discussions

Published: Wednesday 1st October 2014 by The News Editor

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Honda intends to schedule meetings with McLaren over the course of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend – but the driver line-up for next season is likely to be off the agenda.

The engine supplier will return to Formula One from 2015 onwards as it rekindles a partnership with McLaren that proved so successful in the late 1980s, with the first images of the V6 turbo power unit revealed on Wednesday.

The performances of the Woking-based team in the last two years have been off-pace for a marque that have delivered eight constructors’ championships in their distinguished history, and current drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen may find themselves moved on as McLaren look to recover.

Former world champion Button, 34, has a long history of working with Honda – driving for the team for three years before they pulled out of the sport ahead of the Briton’s title-winning campaign.

Honda will now return as a replacement for Mercedes, who ends its own 20-year relationship with McLaren in the process.

Button could yet keep his place and has said he is “pretty happy” that a new contract may soon be in the offing, but Honda’s head of motorsport, Yasuhisa Arai, has confirmed he wants to talk to Ron Dennis and the McLaren team at Suzuka as he claims ‘nothing is decided’ for the team’s line-up moving forward.

“We are constantly talking about which drivers we would like to see,” he told Sky Sports News.

“Whilst McLaren is here in Japan it is only natural that we organise some meetings with McLaren. But I don’t think we will be discussing the topic of drivers, given that nothing is decided.”

Having picked up a double-podium at the start of the season in Melbourne, with Magnussen taking second on debut after the disqualification of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, the team have hit a slump and are down in sixth in the constructors’ standings.

2014 could yet prove to be the worst for the team in 33 years as Button and Magnussen both push hard to prove they deserve to be behind the wheel of a Honda-powered McLaren next year, with Arai confident the Japanese motoring giant can make an impressive return.

“Of course there are various reasons for the performance we have seen from McLaren this season,” he said. “So based on those experiences we are making efforts towards making that jump (in performance).”

The image of Honda’s new power-unit comes after suggestions it would not be ready until testing begins next winter, but Arai revealed everything is running smoothly ahead of the engine supplier’s return.

“Working toward Honda’s F1 participation starting in the 2015 season, development of the power unit is entering its prime phase at our R&D facility in Sakura,” he said.

“In addition to conducting simulations, we have moved on to the next stage where we conduct fully-fledged bench tests of the engine while connecting the turbocharger and energy recovery systems.

“In the meantime, our racing operation base in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, has become fully operational. At this time, we are unveiling an image of our power unit that is under development.

“The whole team is concentrating on this development, getting ready for the forthcoming start of F1 participation in 6 months.”

Published: Wednesday 1st October 2014 by The News Editor

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