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

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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

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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