Niki Lauda has dodged speculation Mercedes could step in to help McLaren solve its performance crisis. Rumours swept the Melbourne paddock last weekend that, now into its third hapless season with works engine partner and sponsor Honda, McLaren is finally looking for the exit.
The rumour goes that Eric Boullier is behind a plan to offload the Honda deal to Sauber, and tie up a return to customer Mercedes power for McLaren -- perhaps even within this season. "I cannot comment on this because I do not know about it," Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda is quoted by Germany's Sport1.
In Melbourne, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was also asked about the McLaren rumours but would not comment except to say he wants a "level playing field" in F1 as well as multiple manufacturers on the grid. But one theory is that Honda has now acknowledged its major design error with the 2017 power unit, and is rushing to introduce a new concept in the next two months. "In two months, around the Monaco grand prix, Honda hopes to have a new engine," former F1 test driver Bas Leinders told the Belgian news agency Sporza.
But amid signs that the Spaniard's long patience is also now up, Fernando Alonso does not sound optimistic. "There has to be a miracle from god to help us -- something more than we are doing at the moment," he is quoted by the Spanish sports daily AS. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing