Behind the scenes, McLaren is lobbying for Honda's F1 chief to be sacked. That is the claim of multiple British newspapers, including the Times, Telegraph and Mail on Sunday, amid yet another woeful weekend for the Anglo-Japanese outfit. McLaren has "written to the company's president, Takahiro Hachigo, calling on him to replace ... Yasuhisa Arai," said the Mail on Sunday.
The reports, citing unnamed sources, followed a particularly brutal interview session for Arai at Monza, where reporters asked him whether he would resign. "I do not answer," was his reply. As for whether he will apologise to Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for wasting a year of their careers, Arai seemed puzzled. "Why? Why?" he said.
The signs of fracture between McLaren and Honda, however, are now becoming clearer, despite stoical efforts until now to maintain the 'one team' approach. Arai was asked on Saturday about his embarrassing recent claim that Honda's latest engine is actually better than Renault's, and while disputing the 25 horse power figure, stood by his stance. "As one team, I have to agree with Arai-San's statement," said team boss Eric Boullier.
But earlier at Monza, Frenchman Boullier admitted that 2015 so far has given him "plenty of embarrassing moments". As for whether McLaren-Honda will ultimately split, just as Red Bull-Renault is apparently set to do, he answered: "For us, this question does not arise. The other team (Red Bull) is a preferred customer, but we are the factory team of Honda," Boullier insisted.
Lead driver Alonso, however, may now be letting his admirable patience to date begin to slip, accusing Honda of being almost exclusively the cause of McLaren's lack of pace. "On a track that has only six corners, we can see on the data that we are losing three tenths in those corners," said the Spaniard. "The rest of the three seconds is on the straight. On the straight we just press the throttle and keep the steering wheel straight," he is quoted by Spanish reporters.
However, Alonso also said he remains committed to McLaren-Honda. "We will not put the finger in our own wounds," he is quoted by Spain's El Confidencial. "We have to be professional and remain quiet. The only thing we can do is work, work, work."
And teammate Jenson Button also said he is prepared to ride out the storm. "We knew that Spa and Monza would be like this. But that is why we're now having this discussion. If we are going for places 5 and 6 in Singapore, everything will calm down." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing