Getty Images

McLaren confirms split with Honda, switch to Renault F1 engines in ’18

Leave a comment

McLaren has confirmed it will be parting company with Formula 1 engine supplier Honda at the end of the 2017 season after three years working together.

In a statement issued by McLaren on Friday ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix., the team announced the partnership had been ended by mutual consent before switching to Renault for 2018.

“McLaren Technology Group and Honda Motor Co. Ltd announce they will discontinue their partnership for the FIA Formula One World Championship (F1) at the end of 2017 by mutual consent,” the statement reads.

“The McLaren Honda Formula 1 team will continue to compete for the remainder of the 2017 FIA Formula One Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championships.

“Both Honda and McLaren will confirm their future plans in the sport in the near future.”

“Renault Sport Racing and McLaren Racing are pleased to announce they have agreed an engine supply partnership for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons,” a subsequent release from McLaren and Renault reads.

“The deal will see Renault Sport Racing supply McLaren with Formula 1 power units, while also establishing a close working relationship with McLaren’s engineers and technicians.”

Honda returned to F1 as an engine supplier in 2015, working exclusively with McLaren for a second time following an enormously successful partnership in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Coming in one year after the introduction of the new V6 turbo power units, Honda was unable to make up ground on its rival engine manufacturers, leaving McLaren a lowly ninth in the constructors’ championship in 2015.

Progress through 2016 lifted McLaren to sixth in the teams’ standings, only for a redesign of its power unit to backfire and cause the team to plummet to the back of the field in 2017.

With frustration growing through the year, McLaren officials explored a number of different avenues for alternative engine supplies, with Renault emerging as its only option.

A number of meetings were held over the Italian Grand Prix weekend with both Honda and Renault, the latter ruling out supplying a fourth team in 2018 on top of its existing commitments with Red Bull, Toro Rosso and its own works team.

A deal was struck after Toro Rosso agreed to move in the opposite direction, linking up with Honda for 2018, ensuring the Japanese manufacturer remains in F1, much to the relief of the sport’s bosses.

Honda had provisionally been due to work with Sauber next year before the deal announced over the Russian Grand Prix weekend was scrapped following a change in the Swiss team’s management.

McLaren’s announcement puts an end to one of F1’s longest-running sagas, the team opting to sacrifice factory-level backing and a significant level of financial support in its chase for greater success on-track.

“There has never been any doubt over Honda’s commitment and energy to the mission of success in Formula 1. They are proven winners and innovators,” McLaren executive director Zak Brown said.

“For a combination of reasons our partnership has not flourished as any of us would have wished. 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.

“As fellow racers, we hope to see the great name of Honda get back to the top – our sport is better for their involvement. I know this view is shared by everyone in the sport.”

“It is unfortunate that we must part ways with McLaren before fulfilling our ambitions, however, we made the decision with a belief that this is the best course of action for each other’s future,” said Takahiro Hachigo, Honda president & representative director of Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

“On behalf of Honda, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to fans who have been very supportive of the team as well as the drivers, team members and everyone involved who shared with us in the joys and disappointments since we began preparing for our return to F1 in 2015.

“Honda will continue the fight together with McLaren all the way to the end of the 2017 season, and then continue its F1 racing activities in 2018 and beyond.”

The decision is also set to have a big impact on the driver market for 2018, with star driver Fernando Alonso long venting his anger about Honda’s performance and considering his future at the team as a result.

Now with Renault coming in, Alonso is expected to extend his stay with McLaren, having made the move across from Ferrari at the end of 2014.

F1 2018 – Engine Supplies

Renault: Renault, Red Bull, McLaren
Mercedes: Mercedes, Force India, Williams
Ferrari: Ferrari, Haas, Sauber
Honda: Toro Rosso

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.