McLaren has split with engine supplier Honda, and will use Renault units from 2018 onwards
Star driver Fernando Alonso has been growing frustrated with Honda
Honda has struggled for both reliability and pace
Honda will supply Toro Rosso with engines next year
Carlos Sainz (right) will replace Jolyon Palmer in Renault's works team next year
McLaren, which has won 12 drivers' and eight constructors' titles since entering F1 in 1966, has agreed a three year deal for a supply of Renault engines.
McLaren and Honda announced in 2013 that they were reuniting for the Japanese firm’s return to the sport from the 2015 season onwards. The two originally partnered in F1 from 1988 until 1992, a spell that resulted in four drivers' and four constructors' titles.
But Honda has failed to produce an engine on the pace of rival manufacturers Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, and has also struggled badly with reliability. That has led to increasingly public frustration from within McLaren, particularly from star driver and double world champion Fernando Alonso. Earlier this year, Alonso skipped the Monaco Grand Prix to race a McLaren-based Andretti Autosport-Honda in the Indianapolis 500.
While Alonso’s team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne has already been retained for next season, the Spaniard was reportedly prepared to quit the team if it continued to use Honda engines in 2018.
McLaren team boss Zak Brown said: “Today’s announcement gives us the stability we need to move ahead with our chassis and technical programme for 2018 without any further hesitation.”
Since returning to the sport, McLaren has been Honda’s sole customer team, but the Japanese manufacturer will stay in the sport next year with Toro Rosso, which has used Renault engines this year. It has not been confirmed how long the deal is for.
Honda had also signed a deal with the Sauber team for 2018, but this was soon cancelled by the Swiss outfit "with the best intent for the future in mind".
Renault runs its own works team in F1, and also supplies engines to Red Bull. There has been tension between the two companies in the recent past, with Red Bull’s engines having been badged as TAG Heuer units since 2016. Red Bull also has a promotional partnership with Aston Martin.
It is reported that Renault is looking to end its supply deal with Red Bull. Pointedly, its release announcing the McLaren deal said that the new agreement provided it "with a second top-level Formula 1 team".
“This is a strategic decision for Renault Sport Racing,” said the firm’s president, Jérôme Stoll. “It is the first time Renault will work with McLaren and we are proud to have reached an agreement with an organization that has such a rich F1 history. This alliance is not only technical and sporting, but also comes with marketing and communication benefits.”
There have been reports that Porsche could buy the Red Bull team to enter F1 in 2021, when new engines rules are due to come into force. But speaking at the Singapore Grand Prix after McLaren's Renault deal was announced, Red Bull team chief Christian Horner hinted that Aston Martin is considering a full F1 entry with Red Bull. The British firm has been linked to an F1 programme for some time and has been involved in discussions about the new engine rules. Aston has already worked with Red Bull on its forthcoming Valkyrie supercar.
After about the possibility of Red Bull switching to Honda engines or selling to Porsche, Horner told Sky Sports: "There will be another announcement coming soon that isn't Porsche or Honda. We have a relationship with a car firm. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work it out."
As a result of the deals, it has also confirmed that Carlos Sainz Jr. will replace Briton Jolyon Palmer at the Renault works team alongside Nico Hülkenberg next year. Sainz, who has driven for Toro Rosso, Red Bull's junior team, since 2015, has been ‘loaned’ to Renault by the energy drinks company. This also means that an F1 return for Robert Kubica is now limited to Williams.