The Sauber Formula One team have announced a surprise switch to the Honda power unit for next season, leaving behind the year old Ferrari engine currently in use by the team. Despite the woeful performance from Honda since arriving in Formula One at the start of the 2015 Grand Prix season it appears the lure of a closer association with a big name manufacturer has been too much for the struggling Swiss squad to ignore, with today's confirmation that 2017 will be the last season of using Ferrari customer engines the team had made use of since the split from BWM back in 2010. Close association with major engine manufacturers are nothing new for Sauber, who remember were the first team to introduce Mercedes back into Formula One in the modern era when they made their Formula One debut for the 1993 Grand Prix season. Associations with Ferrari, Ford and BMW have followed for the perennial midfielders, with BMW even buying considerable shares in the squad and turning the team into a works BMW entry for a number of years in the mid 2000's. Of recent seasons Sauber have struggled somewhat with a succession of strictly customer engine deals, making use of a slightly older Ferrari power unit since 2010 that has significantly affected the teams potential to climb up the grid and pick up the fight for points and podiums once again. At first glance a move to Honda power might feel like a backwards step for the team, however with the undoubted resources available to the Japanese engine giants and a seemingly steadfast commitment to improve the performance of the PU into the remainder of 2017 and beyond, associating themselves closely with the manufacturer at an early stage in development could turn out to be a very smart move in the long run, and help bring the newly financed team back up to the sharp end of the F1 grid. “It is a great honor for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons" Said Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO and Team Principal of the Sauber F1 team. "Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda. We have set another milestone with this new engine era, which we await with huge excitement and of course we are looking for new opportunities. We very much look forward to our partnership with Honda, which sets the course for a successful future – from a strategic as well as from a technological perspective. We thank Honda for making this great partnership happen.” With the first customer team of the new hybrid engine era signed up by Honda, the Japanese giants will be looking to utilise that additional capacity and the considerable engineering assets of Sauber to help increase the rate of development by the engine manufacturers in an effort to increase performance of the much maligned motor, potentially helping advance the work already undertaken between Honda and the works McLaren team. “In addition to the partnership with McLaren which began in 2015, Honda will begin supplying power units to Sauber as a customer team starting from next year. This will be a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities. In order to leverage the benefits of supplying to two teams to the maximum extent, we will strengthen the systems and capabilities of both of our two development operations, namely HRD Sakura and the operation in Milton Keynes" said Katsuhide Moriyama, Chief Officer, Brand and Communication Operations, Honda Motor Co., Ltd "We will continue our challenges so that our fans will enjoy seeing a Honda with dominant strength as soon as possible.” At this early stage no details with regards to the length of contract or what additional technical partnerships can be expected between the two outfits have been confirmed, however it is thought that Sauber will be planning to work closely with Honda in more than just a customer relationship. Whether this could mean the return of the famous Honda junior driver placements (think Nakajima, Sato etc) and a much welcomed return of Japanese drivers in Grand Prix racing remains to be seen, however this could be the start of a very promising partnership for the Sauber Formula One team and the very first steps towards bringing the squad away from the foot of the Formula One grid where it has sadly been languishing in recent years. For more Formula One news check out the Formula One sub forum here at RaceDepartment and involve yourself with our awesome racing community! Do you think the switch to Honda power is a good move by Sauber? Does the deal signify long term intentions by team and engine manufacturer, or just a quick fix for Sauber before something better comes along? Let us know in the comments section below!