As the teams and drivers began the process of honing their set-ups on Singapore’s challenging Marina Bay circuit on Friday, F1’s latest game of musical chairs was finally unravelling officially after months of speculation.
When Renault had confirmed that they will be supplying McLaren with engines next year, severing their links with Toro Rosso, and running promising Spaniard Carlos Sainz alongside Nico Hulkenberg, and Honda finally admitted that they will be switching to Toro Rosso, Briton Jolyon Palmer was left as the only man currently without a seat for 2018.
But while some of the others may well find themselves sitting more comfortably in the future, others may not.
Cue one excruciating press conference in which two senior and hitherto unseen executives from Honda joined with a hard-faced Franz Tost, team principal of Toro Rosso. And another, in which elated McLaren executive director Zak Brown was flanked by his new partner, Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul, and the man whose engine supply he might ultimately be taking, Red Bull’s Christian Horner.
Katsuhide Moriyama, Honda’s chief officer of brand and communication operations, said that despite a great deal of soul-searching, Honda never considered pulling out of F1, even when a planned switch to Sauber was nixed when former Renault manager Fred Vasseur was appointed the Swiss outfit’s new team principal.
“For Honda, F1 started with the dream of our founder, Soichiro Honda, and we have a history of more than 50 years of F1,” Moriyami said.
“F1 is a very important culture and DNA of our company. It is our goal to overcome this tough challenge and get back to fighting the frontrunners of the sport, and Honda’s spirit is to fight for the top three at the top of the grid.”
Given the lamentable results that a team of McLaren’s calibre were able to achieve with their engine in the past three years, that is indeed a lofty ambition.
Masashi Yamamoto, the general manager of Honda’s motorsport division, and like his boss Moriyama an honourable and passionate man, spoke of the “shame and a disappointment” that a proud company felt as they separated from the partner with which they had achieved such greatness in the era of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna back in the late Eighties and early Nineties.
Looking more like a hologram, Tost, the man who had only recently said at Spa that there had been no official conversations between the two parties even though it…