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McLaren/Honda rumours resurface

ESPN Staff
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Honda supplied a V6 turbo to McLaren in 1988 with huge success © Sutton Images

Rumours that McLaren will switch to Honda engines within the next couple of years have emerged again, with Germany's Auto Motor und Sport saying it is a matter of when not if the two join forces.

McLaren is currently supplied by Mercedes engines and has a contract with the German manufacturer until 2015. However, this year is the first in which McLaren will have to pay for its engines under its current deal, after Mercedes set up its own F1 team in 2010 and then sold its shares in McLaren.

Honda left F1 in 2008 after a management buyout of its F1 team led by Ross Brawn, who later sold it to Mercedes, but rumours that it is keen to rejoin with the advent of the new 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines have been circulating for a couple of years. Speculation that it would supply McLaren is just as old, but McLaren bosses have always played down the rumours.

However, at this year's pre-season test in Jerez, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said he was aware of talk that the Japanese manufacturer could return to the sport and, speaking in a wider context about car manufacturers returning to F1, added: "We've been out there talking to various motor companies. I think it's a question of time [until more manufacturers return], but I think the decision that we've taken to downsize and turbocharge [the engines] is appropriate and will make us attractive to the OEMs."

The Auto Motor und Sport article says it is now a question of whether Honda return in 2014 or 2015, with McLaren weighing up its options for next season and Mercedes eager for a decision sooner rather than later. The story also said paddock gossip had suggested Honda already have technicians stationed at McLaren's factory in Woking in preparation for a switch, although on Monday a spokesperson for McLaren told BBC Sport: "We never discuss media rumours about potential partners."

Adding fuel to the speculation is the history shared between McLaren and Honda. The Japanese company supplied engines to McLaren between 1988 and 1992, taking four driver's titles with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in that time. Honda has a long history in Formula One and in October last year its head of R&D, Yoshiharu Yamamoto, said the new regulations had sparked the idea of a return.

"On a personal level I love racing, but there is a lot involved when you are in F1 - it is the very top of auto racing and that requires a large commitment," Yamamoto told Autocar. "But it is true that we do look up at those races and hope that one day we can take part again.

"I do not personally think we can just go straight back immediately, but there is potential for the rules to change and attract us. I follow the rules, certainly, and if they present an opportunity then it would be nice to go back."

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