The press room was almost deserted at the Shanghai circuit, where the usual haze did not let a single ray of sunlight. The pit lane had very little activity, as the mechanics arrived well in advance, many of them on Monday, and the work on the cars was already well advanced.
In McLaren’s garage, mechanics were working on mounting Honda’s power units, some of which were at the door of the Japanese motorist’s offices, and also in the back of the garage. Three engines were inside their boxes of transport, but none with the miracle that the car needs to retrace positions.
Honda could not be champion before 2020
Shanghai straight lines will be an impartial and ruthless judge for the team of Fernando Alonso, who will be able to do little with his flying skills to compensate for the shortcomings of the Japanese engine.
Honda recognizes after Australia that they failed in the idea and, above all, in the approach of the project does not cease to surprise, but the Japanese were very transparent.
The positive side of the matter is that they know where they screwed up and try to fix it, even if they have no choice when it comes to reaching the best (Mercedes and Ferrari). At least that should serve as a consolation for their pilots, who are currently running in another division. McLaren is bringing improvements to his car, this time the rear wing called the T-wing, which already do squad like Haas, but all that is not enough. McLaren must decide whether to continue with them by looking at 2021.
The most worrying thing about Honda for Fernando, and not so much for Vandoorne because of his youth, is that the Japanese start talking about the engine being very expensive and that in the horizon of 2021 there will be a change of regulations. No doubt that phrase, if analyzed in depth, has a very clear message.
They have surely realized that it is of no use to continue investing hundreds of millions in these propellers, as they don’t see themselves as winning the championship till 2020. If the Japanese thinking goes around, they will try to make a dressing task, but they can start working on the new engines as soon as they are fully defined and back with the new regulation with a pointer engine. This means they could leave McLaren at the feet of present horsepower for three more years.
The uncertainty of McLaren would be in that case to abandon the Japanese, when they could have a first engine from 2021. A dilemma very complicated to solve.