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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

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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