Following weeks and weeks of speculation, Sauber F1 Team have just announced that they will indeed switch to Honda engines for the 2018 Formula 1 season, ending their long standing association with Ferrari.
Photo : Formula 1
“Strategic and technological” is how Sauber describe their new partnership with Honda.
“It is a great honour for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons”, said team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, “Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda.”
Confirming the deal, Katsuhide Moriyama from Honda said : “In addition to the partnership with McLaren which began in 2015, Honda will be supplying power units to Sauber as a customer team starting from next year.”
“This will be a new challenge for Honda’s F1 activities”, he said, “In order to leverage the benefits of supplying to two teams to the maximum extent, we will strengthen the systems and capabilities of both of our two development operations, namely HRD Sakura and the operation in Milton Keynes.”
So yeah, that’s Sauber Honda you’ll see on the grid in 2018. There are two sides of looking at this situation. Here’s my opinion of it.
You could say it is a terrible idea for Sauber to get onto Honda engines as evidenced by the obvious sheer lack of performance of Honda engines on the McLaren cars for the past three years. Especially this year given how bad Honda have been, it is a miracle anyone would ever let Honda touch their cars. Perhaps Honda are just securing an F1 team for when McLaren do leave them. Yes, that is a fair point and a very obvious one to stay away from Honda.
But on the flipside, here’s why it makes sense especially for a team like Sauber.
Sauber are a customer team, not a works team. They’ve been getting second hand engines from Ferrari all this time. If they switch to Mercedes or Renault, it’ll be the same case again, because both those companies have works teams in F1 as well. But with Honda, they get brand new engines.
If Honda get better, Sauber get better. If Honda don’t, Sauber are a backmarker team anyway, they have nothing to lose. Honda getting better will catapult Sauber into the midfield or even further up the grid. They can never do that being a customer of a works team.
Right now it seems like the worst decision in the history of decision making. But if Honda get their act together, imagine seeing a Sauber fighting at the top. Good news if McLaren don’t jump ship, because that’s double the data pool to aid Honda development. But if McLaren do switch to Mercedes, oh dear.
Feature image : motorsport.com
– Aditya Bhat.