Bob McMurray: F1 rumours laid to rest
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Formula 1 is back from the beach this weekend at the incomparable Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes forest of deepest Belgium.
A bigger contrast from dry, hot, sandy and sunny holiday spots would be hard to find as the track is invariably shrouded in a blanket of fog or being doused with serious rain.
When it is not being toasted under a hot sun, that is.
Unpredictable it always is.
The last few weeks have given the Formula 1 media a lot of work and worry trying to keep new "stories of substance" headlining the various sites.
Lewis Hamilton's dogs and partying and Jenson Button's girlfriend are always popular, not to mention the McLaren plans for a Woking Formula 1 circuit (with tongues firmly in cheeks).
One story of substance was set around the Honda engine, again.
It appears Honda and the Toro Rosso Formula 1 team have decided not to go ahead with plans for that team to run the, so far, troublesome engine.
The rumour is the deal fell apart due to a lack of agreement about the associated finances.
With no knowledge of what the proposed deal was, I can only speculate that team owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, could not get Honda to agree to his terms.
It has been well known for some time that he would like to offload the team.
After all, who wants to own two Formula 1 teams when one is quite enough, thank you?
Even when you are worth an estimated $28 billion, own your own air force, and have a finger in just about every sport on the planet.
I think Mateschitz was hoping Honda, which made it clear recently that it needs to supply another Formula 1 team in addition to McLaren, would come along with a big bag of cash as a sponsor, effectively buy him out of Toro Rosso, or at the very least buy a major share.
Clearly Honda does not want to re-enter the sport as a team yet again but simply wants to remain as an engine supplier, so no deal was done. And Mateschitz can probably afford to keep the Renault-powered junior Red Bull team, as it is now.
Where does all of this now leave the McLaren-Honda partnership?
Well, still a partnership -- as the options for either of them to seek new pastures look like they have finally run out.
Honda has no one at this time, who wants to run its engines and McLaren has no other engine manufacturer which wants to supply it, save for the slimmest of chances Renault may be still interested.
This McLaren/Honda saga has gone on, with screeds of print devoted to the tenuous and fractured relationship epic of three long years.
The only real option for both operations from now on seems to be "head down, bum up" and get on with it.
I still keep the faith and believe the combination will come good and that, at some point, the team will be back in a competitive position in the sport.
Just how long that will be is debatable, but the marriage, be it now of convenience or true purpose, has no other options but to endure.
I speculate here -- as it is not too late in the season for things to change for 2018 -- but having to endure is also true of its star driver Fernando Alonso.
His options for another drive with a top team have virtually evaporated.
I expect there will soon be an announcement that he believes 2018 will be a winning season for the team, so he will stick it out, as long as the word "sabbatical" does not arise, of course.
The combination for next season is still almost certain to be McLaren -- Honda -- Alonso -- Stoffel Vandoorne, as it is for the current season.
Whether the same can be said of the management team remains to be seen.
The Belgian Grand Prix will be a trial for all parties as the circuit demands power, the more the better and the one thing that is sadly lacking with McLaren in performance terms, as it has been for three seasons, is Honda power, as well as a huge spoonful of reliability.
It was back in the Peugeot engine McLaren days that I was stationed alongside the track between the "Pouhon" and Les Fagnes' corners, at the furthest point from the pits, while practice and qualifying was on, so I was able to get either of the drivers back to the pits in a hurry when the Peugeot engine expired.
That happened with some regularity and always at the most inconvenient place on the long circuit.
Of course that was in the days when a spare car, or two, was ready and waiting back in the garage -- something not available these days.
It will be interesting to see if there is a member of the McLaren team, on a motorbike, stationed alongside the track somewhere this weekend, and if so I hope he does not have a busy weekend.