Ron Dennis has earmarked Sauber as a potential future second team for Honda, according to sources close to McLaren.
Dennis has now made it clear that Honda could not supply Red Bull in 2016 because the time scale made it impossible for the Japanese manufacturer to make enough parts.
However, there is increasing pressure from Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone for Honda to work with another team from 2017 onwards, and Sauber presents an obvious opportunity – not least because McLaren would not regard the Swiss team as a direct rival.
Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn insisted that there was only a general discussion about Sauber's engine situation at the recent F1 Commission, but she admitted that longer term, options were open.
“There was a lot of engine talk going on in the meeting when we were all in there,” she told Motorsport.com. “And in that context we were discussing an option like that, and more looking at the past and what had happened.
“In the context of that we also had a talk about what our engine situation is, and we said we are currently bound, but you should always keep all options open. It was embedded in a bigger public talk about engine suppliers having to supply more teams.
“We have a long lasting relationship with Ferrari, it's a good relationship. But no one knows what's going to be in two, three, or four years.”
Intriguingly Kaltenborn admitted that she had talked in the past to former Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi about the possibility of the team getting a Honda supply.
“There was once an idea that we were thinking of maybe having Honda. We were not approached by Honda, put it like this, but it was because of Kamui Kobayashi who came and asked us. Don't ask me if it was last year or the year before, but this was the context of that talk.”