McLaren had a factory deal with Mercedes from 1995 until the German manufacturer entered as the full constructors in 2010, with McLaren continuing to use Mercedes engines until 2014.
"We are working with Honda to address shortcomings and deficiencies". Mercedes reportedly didn't shoot down McLaren's inquiry. A frustrated Fernando Alonso, whose contract with McLaren expires at the end of 2017, labeled Honda the team's "only problem" coming into the new season and said it was missing 30km/h of speed on the straights alone.
Mercedes has said it's open to the prospect of supplying engines to more teams on the F1 grid but for McLaren it looks a hard U-turn to pull off after splitting from the German manufacturer as a customer team in 2013 after a 20-year partnership with a soured relationship as Mercedes set-up its own factory team in F1.
A return to Mercedes would be ironic given former McLaren chief Ron Dennis' assertion that it is impossible in modern F1 to win a championship as a customer team, something which motivated the switch from Mercedes to Honda power in the first place. Fernando Alonso was 12th fastest out of 14 drivers.
Back to the future - again?
Three years into the new partnership with Honda, with which it enjoyed iconic success in the late 80s and early 90s, things appear no better than they did at the start.
However, Alonso did say that there's no concern for the championship's inaugural race, held in Australia, where he believes that the team will be ready to compete at a right level.
Fernando Alonso, as frustrated as any double Formula One world champion would be in a slow and unreliable vehicle, summed up McLaren's testing woes in terms guaranteed to make Honda executives wince.
Speaking on the F1 Report - Testing Special, our guests think McLaren are a team in crisis following a disappointing display at testing in Barcelona. It is a long-term project, so we will see the next few weeks. Honda completely changed its power unit ahead of 2017, opting for an aggressively compact package in the hopes of making big horsepower gains. They have done McLaren-Honda proud.
"The truth is we're having more problems than we expected".