As the reality dawns at Woking that its 2017 campaign looms as stillborn, the inevitable hypothesising on contingencies have arisen amid preparations for this weekend’s curtain raiser in Melbourne.
A once fanciful notion has become tangible in previous days, with the prospect of a divorce between McLaren and Honda gathering momentum by the day, and rest assured, its ostensible fate at Albert Park will do little to quell such rhetoric.
The concept of each party cutting its losses appears simple in theory and soothing to those who understandably wish for the misery to be halted by any means, yet affecting this with haste is another consideration entirely, and fraught with implications.
Sky Sports commentator and ex-McLaren driver, Martin Brundle, remarked that “they (McLaren) can’t leave Honda unless Honda pull out and leave them a fat cheque like they did Brawn”, which, reading between the lines, lends itself to McLaren nudging the Japanese marque to fall on its sword.
Despite this, reports that prominent shareholder Mansour Ojjeh has made contact with the team’s erstwhile long-term partner in Mercedes, must be taken with a grain of salt, for realising such a retrograde measure should only be contemplated if it becomes abundant in coming months that Honda is incapable of acknowledging its deficiencies.
Should this renewed existential crisis, daresay crises, prove insufficient for the notoriously insular manufacturer to smell the roses – rather than the bonsais, representing outside assistance and adopting a lateral approach, nothing will be. It’s only at this stage that the scorched earth trajectory could conceivably be tabled, with a considerable amount of money and goodwill predicated on the relationship’s survival.
Pragmatism can often be difficult to uphold, though the lure of an immediate fix doesn’t solve the overall issue. Retreating would be tantamount to an admission of defeat, and this wouldn’t sit well for team and supplier, an ignominious asterisk on its uber successful initial collaboration.
It stands to reason that the impending season will amount to an elongated testing session, which if seen through – while painful in the interim, could be for the ultimate betterment of the association.
The satisfaction derived from committing to strive forward and addressing the myriad issues in unison could define the relationship, even if this means victories and titles must be placed on the backburner in the foreseeable future.
The easy option would be for McLaren to return to Mercedes power at first opportunity, while Honda licks its wounds and rests on the laurels of success in MotoGP, yet each has cause to persevere.
The former, while likely to establish itself as a firm midfield runner in the event of a return to the German marque, won’t have the capacity to fight for championships and dynasties under customer status.
Honda could do far worse than examine the phrase ‘supple’ in place of adjectives such as rigid and stubborn, and swallow its nationalistic pride in the interest of expediency for all concerned.
It’s pertinent to ponder what the deposed Ron Dennis makes of the fiasco, having presided over the reunion of one of Formula One’s most iconic combinations. Whether he relishes the mess he must no longer contend with, or conversely, pities that his fastidious legacy is being tainted, that he allowed sentiment to cloud his judgement in a different time with different personnel, only he can know.
The best decision is when a decision shouldn’t have to be made. McLaren and Honda formed a longstanding agreement, and the regret of contemplating what could have been outweighs the sanctuary of ending the suffering. The night is darkest prior to dawn, to terminate the relationship before it’s seen the light of day would be to deny fate.