SAUBER have dealt a new blow to beleaguered Japanese manufacturer Honda after pulling the plug on their engine partnership for next year.
The Swiss team, who currently use one-year old Ferrari engines, had agreed to team up with Honda in 2018 in a deal which was announced only in April.
However, Sauber’s decision to terminate the contract casts fresh doubt over Honda’s long-term future in the sport with McLaren, their only other partner on the grid, also considering their options for next year.
McLaren, powered by Honda since 2015, sit second from bottom in the constructors’ standings, while Fernando Alonso has encountered a host of engine issues and has finished only three races this year.
‘It is very unfortunate that we have to discontinue the planned collaboration with Honda at this stage,’ said Sauber’s new team principal Frederic Vasseur, who has replaced Monisha Kaltenborn.
‘However, this decision has been made for strategic reasons, and with the best intent for the future of the Sauber F1 Team in mind.
‘We would like to thank Honda for their collaboration, and wish them all the best for their future in Formula One.’
Honda returned to the Formula One grid with McLaren three years ago, but they have struggled to produce a competitive and reliable engine.
‘We had built a good relationship with Sauber, and had been looking forward to entering the 2018 F1 season together,’ added Honda’s motorsport manager Masashi Yamamoto.
‘However, during discussions after management changes at the team, we reached a mutual agreement to call off the project due to differences in the future directions of both parties.
‘We would like to thank Sauber for their cooperation, and wish them all the best for their future. Despite this announcement, Honda’s passion for motorsports and strong commitment to Formula One remains unchanged.’
Sauber, now sitting bottom of the constructors’ championship, said they will announce a new engine partner in due course.