McLaren to ditch Honda engines, back to Mercedes for 2018
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Mclaren are edging towards a deal with Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team to supply their engines next season - a partnership they hope will keep Fernando Alonso at Britain's foremost Formula One team.
Sportsmail understands McLaren will drop their current engine partners, Honda, after patience with the Japanese manufacturers' uncompetitive and unreliable engines finally ran out - a separation that will cost McLaren £78million (NZ$137.8 million).
McLaren's long-standing shareholder Mansour Ojjeh talked at length in the paddock in Montreal ahead of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix to Mercedes' F1 chairman Niki Lauda and team principal Toto Wolff about the new arrangement.
Those close to the expected deal say there are obstacles to overcome - such as Mercedes' wisdom in supplying their market-leading engines, which took Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to three successive world titles, to a potential championship rival - but that they are 'far from insurmountable'.
Although Eric Boullier, McLaren's racing director, told Sportsmail that he did not expect the deal to be concluded before the next race in Baku, Azerbaijan, a week on Sunday.
McLaren privately believe their objective will be delivered on.
News of the deal is expected before the summer break in August, though the engines would be supplied next year rather than for the end of this season.
McLaren's frustration with Honda was exacerbated by Alonso's engine failure while he was in a point-scoring position towards the end of the race in Montreal.
The team are bottom of the constructors' standings with no points. Ten engines have expired across their two cars this season. Boullier called Alonso's latest setback 'gut-wrenching', adding: 'It's difficult to find the right words to express our disappointment, our frustration and, yes, our sadness. So I'll say only this: it's simply, not good enough.'
The need to find a quick solution is increased due to Alonso being out of contract at the end of the season.
The Spaniard has said he will announce his future plans after the summer break, and the prospect of a competitive car is the key factor in his decision. Mercedes would offer this. However, Honda's departure would denude McLaren of £80m in annual contributions to driver salaries and research.
With Alonso currently on a yearly salary of £25m (NZ$44m), that leaves a huge financial hole. He could either accept less money or Ojjeh may fund the double world champion's demands out of his own pocket. The cost of leasing the engines would be around £10.6m (NZ$18.7m) - the fee for such arrangements - or a similar figure which the two parties are free to negotiate.
Ojjeh has taken a hands-on approach to McLaren since Ron Dennis was deposed as chief executive last year. He wants to get the team, winners of 12 drivers' and eight constructors' titles, back on a firm footing.
Dennis argued McLaren needed its own engine partners to be world champions, rather than being secondary to the works team. But Zak Brown, the new executive director, said last week he did not agree that leasing engines presented a competitive handicap.
McLaren would get the same engines as Mercedes. However, as has been the case with Williams and Force India, fresh engines might come to them late.
Williams and Force India only received their updated power units in Montreal, whereas Mercedes got theirs two races earlier.
Mercedes declined to comment on any future involvement with McLaren.