Williams Rumored to Become Honda’s New Factory Team in 2018
Honda may trade one historic British team for another.
Where the McLaren-Honda partnership stands is clear: McLaren wants out, Honda wants to protect its investment. Whether or not the next few years of Honda's Formula One engine program will turn into a textbook example of sunk cost fallacy cannot be known, though it is known to all parties that McLaren can no longer stomach the losses incurred by the damp cherry bomb of an engine provided by Honda. According to Roger Benoit of Blick, Honda has already found an alternative to McLaren for the 2018 season in the form of Williams, who would replace McLaren as the Japanese automaker's factory team.
If this allegation is true, it would mark the second time that Williams has been a works team, with the last time being the team's partnership with BMW that lasted between 2000 and 2004.
This partnership would come with both the chance to use the additional cash flow, expertise, and development coordination offered by Honda to build what could be the team's first car capable of taking the World Constructors' Championship in over twenty years. It also comes with the risk of repeating the mistake that McLaren has had to learn the hard way between 2015 and now—Honda may not have what it takes to make a competitive Formula One engine.
With only a few years remaining until Formula One's engine regulations are again overhauled, and with changes due in 2021, it is not appearing likely that Honda will be able to cobble a competitive engine together before then. The best-case situation for Williams would be that Honda develops a competent interim engine on the level of Renault's power units whilst focusing on its engine for 2021 and beyond.
Given the difficulty McLaren will have separating from Honda, however, this may be no more than wishful thinking on the part of both parties. Regardless, 2018 can't come soon enough.