End of the road could give F1 a new course
McLaren will drop Honda engines in favour of Renault at the end of this season, ending a troubled partnership with the Japanese manufacturer as they bid to return to the top of Formula One.
The celebrated British marque announced a three-year deal covering 2018, 2019 and 2020 with France’s Renault, who simultaneously unveiled a split with Toro Rosso – who will now be powered by Honda. The related moves, which had been widely flagged, could ultimately herald a shake-up in the pecking order of Formula One – which is currently dominated by Mercedes and Ferrari.
Honda’s exit is likely to convince two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who has repeatedly threatened to quit over the misfiring Honda engines, to stay at McLaren next year.
As part of the deal, Toro Rosso loaned highly-rated Spaniard Carlos Sainz to Renault for 2018, where he will partner Nico Hulkenberg – with Britain’s Jolyon Palmer elbowed out.
“Today’s announcement gives us the stability we need to move ahead with our chassis and technical programme for 2018 without any further hesitation,” said McLaren executive director Zak Brown.
Britain’s most successful Formula One team have failed to win a race since 2012 and are a long way from challenging Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull.
The vexed collaboration with Honda came to a head this month in Italy as Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne both collected grid penalties and failed to finish. Vandoorne was penalised before the race after being fitted with a brand-new engine, and still suffered a power failure.
Honda will now try their luck with Toro Rosso, who admitted the timing of the announcement, late in the season, was far from ideal.
“There are some challenges to face given the time of year but Toro Rosso has faced many difficult tasks with timing in the past and has the flexibility to deal with it,” said Toro Rosso’s technical director James Key.
“Torro Rosso has faced many difficult tasks in the past” – Key
Still McLaren’s man?: Fernando Alonso.