McLaren confirm Honda divorce and sign three-year Renault deal
McLaren-Honda split officially confirmed; Sainz joins Renault on loan from Red Bull for 2018; Could Aston Martin partner Red Bull?
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 30/09/17 8:45am
McLaren have confirmed they will split from much-maligned engine suppliers Honda and be powered by Renault from the 2018 season.
The divorce of one of Formula 1's most famous team-engine relationships has been predicted with increasing intensity throughout a catastrophic 2017 campaign and will bring to an end a three-year partnership that has failed to garner a single podium.
"For a combination of reasons our partnership has not flourished as any of us would have wished," said McLaren boss Zak Brown. "It is certainly not for the want of effort on the part of either Honda or McLaren, but the time has come to move ahead in different directions."
Honda, who will stay in F1 with Toro Rosso, have described the separation as "a shame and a pity".
McLaren will instead be powered by Renault in 2018 after signing a three-year deal with the French manufacturer.
'McLaren-Renault is a partnership that will challenge for victory,' said both parties in joint statements.
McLaren have effectively swapped engine deals with Toro Rosso after Red Bull's junior outfit surrendered their supply of Renault power units to join up with Honda.
As part of the complex arrangement, Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz will move to Renault in 2018 on loan from parent outfit Red Bull.
Confirmation Fernando Alonso will stay on at McLaren following their divorce from Honda is expected next week.
Red Bull, meanwhile, have hinted they could be poised to strike an engine deal with Aston Martin.
Deals which will reshape the Formula 1 landscape for decades
The ramifications from this weekend's announcements - with more to follow - will be felt for years, if not decades, to come.
McLaren have an avenue back to respectability and will now assume a holding position for three seasons ahead of the sport's engine revamp for 2021 when the team themselves may seek to make their own engines or arrange a deal with Porsche.
Official notification Fernando Alonso will stay on at McLaren-Renault for at least 2018 is expected to follow imminently.
The sport itself will be breathing large sighs of relief that the nightmare scenario of Honda - the last of the four existing engine makers in F1 to join the sport - leaving Formula 1 for the second time in a decade has been avoided.
The payback for Toro Rosso in taking on the weakest power unit in the field is the potential to grow into a fully-fledged outfit in their own right away from parent outfit Red Bull.
And Renault have grabbed Carlos Sainz as payment for swapping an engine supply from Toro Rosso to McLaren.
But what now for Red Bull?
The team supported Toro Rosso's switch when it appeared that the union with Honda would give them an extra engine-supply option away from Renault. But have they been wrong-footed by Renault telling the former world champions they will end their deal in just over twelve months' time?
The unexpected development seemingly leaves Red Bull dependent on Honda becoming competitive for 2019 if they themselves are to retain realistic hopes of matching Mercedes and Ferrari - not to mention McLaren-Renault and the Renault works team if the French manufacturers make big strides next year.
And what if Honda don't?
The prospect of Red Bull being sold, potentially as a works Porsche outfit, is already the subject of intense speculation in the paddock. In the shorter term, the futures of both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull look increasingly doubtful. Both Mercedes and Ferrari have kept their 2019 driver line-up options open by only retaining Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen on single-year deals for next season.
Could it be Verstappen and Vettel at Ferrari and Riccardo and Hamilton at Mercedes in 2019?
Or could it be Verstappen and Ricciardo at Red Bull-Aston Martin in 2019 after Christian Horner's tantalising revelation to Sky F1 in Singapore that Red Bull have an engine-manufacturer deal of their own in the offing?
The dominoes may have only just started falling…
Where did it go wrong for McLaren-Honda?
McLaren-Honda's previous incarnation in the late 1980s and early 1990s had been all-conquering and the present partnership was heralded as the one to break Mercedes' dominance when it was reforged four years ago.
Then McLaren chief Ron Dennis declared: "No grand prix team is going to win a world championship in the future unless it is the dominant recipient of an engine manufacturer's efforts.
"I can't understand why everybody doesn't appreciate the simple fact that you aren't going to win a world championship if you have a second-string engine - it's just not going to happen."
But the reality has been very different with McLaren often running in the lower half of the field.
They last finished on the podium in 2014, the season before they reunited with Honda, with their last race win achieved in November 2012.
At the start of June, team boss Eric Boullier condemned the team's performance in Canada as "simply and absolutely not acceptable" while executive director Zak Brown described Honda as "lost" and admitted "serious concerns" about the Japanese firm's ability to win a world championship, their stated aim upon reuniting in 2014.
Performance and reliability problems have plagued the first three years of Honda's F1 return with a fresh wave of problems at the start of this year leaving the eight-time champions second-bottom in the Constructors' Championship with just 11 points.