McLaren is holding so-called 'crisis talks' ahead of struggling Honda's home grand prix in Japan. This week, team boss Eric Boullier has been at Sakura, the Japanese carmaker's F1 base, almost 500 kilometres from the Honda-owned Suzuka track. With Honda struggling so obviously, there is plenty to talk about.
Writing for the Telegraph, Daniel Johnson said he had even heard that supremo Ron Dennis had warned the recent meeting of the strategy group that engine development restrictions could push Honda out of the sport. McLaren-Honda clearly have Bernie Ecclestone on their side.
"I think this is putting off other manufacturers," the F1 supremo told Forbes. "100 per cent. If Honda had come in and blasted away, people would have said 'If they can do it, we can do it'. Now it's the other way round. They say 'If they haven't done it, what chance have we got?'"
At the Honda meeting, chiefs will also have discussed the income situation for 2016, with McLaren reportedly to lose key backers as well as millions in official prize money. But the German-language Speed Week said McLaren may have met with a potential Chinese sponsor last weekend in Singapore.
McLaren-Honda, meanwhile - and F1 at large - looks set to lose the 2009 world champion Jenson Button, who appears to have tired of his situation following reports the Woking team wants him to forgo a contracted pay-rise. And the jury is out as to whether Fernando Alonso can maintain his own patience for much longer.
"We are still in our pre-season testing," the Spaniard is quoted by the Marca sports newspaper this week. "This should not be (the case) in the fourteenth race, but we are a little bit behind." Alonso's predicament is on the lips of many paddock dwellers, including Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who told Spain's AS newspaper that he misses going wheel-to-wheel with one of F1's greats.
"Fernando is a great," the Australian agreed, "and he has had an incredible career in F1. He is one of those drivers who always wants to win, so I really feel bad for what is happening this year, which is not normal for someone like Fernando. I know they (McLaren-Honda) are trying to build for the future," Ricciardo added, "but it's tough for a champion like him." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing