McLaren boss admits Honda improving but warns time is short

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown has acknowledged the progress made by engine partner Honda in recent races but admits time is running out regarding a decision on their future.

In Austria, the Japanese manufacturer introduced a 'Spec 3' power unit aimed at solving many of the reliability and some of the performance issues of the heavily revised design introduced this year.

On the performance side, there was some progress as Stoffel Vandoorne maintained 12th place despite a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, on reliability, there was still some problems as Fernando Alonso had to switch back to a 'Spec 2' unit due to an MGU-H problem on Friday.

Overall, the outlook was better for McLaren, with Alonso claiming points should become a "normal" target for the team, but with a lot of work still do to before Honda can offer the power unit the British team desires, the doubts remain as to whether it will be enough to prevent a split.

"It's still very much a work in progress," Brown told reporters in Austria.

"We need to figure out our relationship with them moving forward, soon. You start getting into next year's car (design) in the next few months and what we have to have is a competitive engine for next year.

"They (Honda) are working hard on it and doing some things that are for them to speak about to make those improvements. So we want to give them as much runway as possible to get there."

One thing Brown refused to criticise was the effort being put in to try and reach that goal, acknowledging wins and championships are a shared target.

"As far as their enthusiasm to address the issue, that's been there from day one but it's a results-oriented business," he said. 

"We do like what we're seeing and what they are telling us about how they are going about addressing some of the issues."

There was still a warning for Honda F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa and his men back in Japan, however.

"I would say our position hasn't changed on our requirement to have a competitive situation next year," the American concluded.