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Renault admits to discussions with McLaren

NEWS STORY
26/08/2017

Speaking to reporters at Spa, Renault's Cyril Abiteboul has admitted to having held discussions with McLaren in terms of an engine supply for 2018 and beyond, but the general feeling is that the Woking outfit will stick with Honda.

With the deadline by which time McLaren must make its decision on its engine partner for 2018 and beyond - and thereby Fernando Alonso must make his own decision on his future - fast approaching, the Japanese manufacturer appears to be the British team's only option.

While Abiteboul confirmed that talks have been held, if the French manufacturer were to supply the Woking outfit it would require the FIA's blessing as manufacturers are only supposed to supply three teams.

However, Abiteboul admitted that even with the FIA's blessing on such a deal, the French company feared that providing four teams- its own and the two Red Bull outfits - could compromise its efforts and progress.

"The situation is we have a multi-year contract with Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso," he said. "We are open to discussions, and I can confirm there have been discussions with McLaren, but right now there is a restriction in the regulation if we wanted to supply more than three teams.

"In addition to that, I don't think it would be reasonable to believe that we could supply more than three without degrading the level of service, the quality of service, for the other teams," he admitted. "We have had discussions and frankly, we have contracts in place.

"We value the relationship with Red Bull. It is a long-standing relationship and we would like to carry this relationship until 2020, but if there is something to be done, why not? But right now I understand things are very quiet and they are not necessarily proactively pushing for anything."

The dilemma facing McLaren (and Alonso) however, is that there is a general feeling - despite Stoffel Vandoorne's ever increasing grid penalty at his home race - that eventually Honda will come good, an indicator of which many see in the double points finish in Hungary.

It has also been revealed that Ilmor has been assisting the Japanese manufacturer in its efforts to improve performance and reliability, thereby adding to McLaren's conundrum.

A tetchy Zak Brown, who appeared more willing to talk eSports and Indianapolis, was clearly miffed when asked what options 'his' team really has other than Honda.

"We're not going to give a running commentary on our power unit situation," he snapped. "I know it's of keen interest to everyone but we'll say something when we have something to say.

Pressed a little harder, when asked how he thinks McLaren stands with the FIA in terms of Renault supplying a fourth team, the American said: "We speak with the FIA on a regular basis on lots of topics, being that they're the governing body of the sport so I'll leave the conversations that we've had, power-unit related, to ourselves and see what transpires."

To further add to the mix, there is continued speculation of a move which would see Toro Rosso supplied by Honda, which would free up Renault of one manufacturer - it would also give Red Bull a 'test bed' for 2018 as it studied its sister team's progress (or lack of it) with the Japanese manufacturer.

As ever, Christian Horner sought only to further muddy the waters. When asked about the Toro Rosso speculation he replied: "I think the gentlemen in the next press conference, Zak and Hasegawa, they should be able answer all of your questions in extreme detail," he smiled.

"It doesn't really affect Red Bull Racing whatever engine Toro Rosso takes," he added, "the only affect it has is the synergies between the teams in terms of gearboxes and so on. We need to know pretty quickly, within the next couple of weeks, what the scenario is."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spa, here.

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