At some level you have to wonder what options Sauber had for improving their pace and outlook for the future. Having secured a year-old engine supply from Ferrari for this season’s efforts, the team were always going to find their outright pace down from those around them as the development march continued leaving them shackled to an aging technology.
The desire to acquire current Ferrari engines may have crossed the team’s minds but it seems they’ve taken a new direction and joined forces with Honda to compete in their 26th season in Formula 1 starting in 2018.
“It is a great honour for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons,” said Monisha Kaltenborn, Sauber CEO and team principal. “Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda.”
Honda are currently embroiled in a difficult season and pressured relationship with McLaren having not delivered the performance either organization had hoped for but perhaps running more cars will allow Honda to do more testing and more development.
“This will be a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities,” said Katsuhide Moriyama, Chief Officer, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
“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. We will continue our challenges so that our fans will enjoy seeing a Honda with dominant strength as soon as possible.”
Instead of shrinking from the challenge and results their efforts have delivered at McLaren, Honda are now doubling down and supplying two teams in order to improve their position as an engine supplier to F1.
Some may ask why Sauber isn’t simply using current Ferrari engines and that’s a great question but I would have to guess that the engine supply cost is just too weighty for Sauber at the moment otherwise they would be using them in 2017. Perhaps the Honda arrangement is a much more affordable solution and give Honda four cars instead of two in which to determine their development path—a win-win for both Honda and Sauber.
Some F1 fans have leveled a finger at Sauber and suggested they just chose the worst engine on the grid but the team are already running at the back of the grid and were beaten by a McLaren in Russia this weekend so perhaps it is a step, small one at that, forward.