The inevitable has arrived. From 2018, McLaren will opt for Renault power units instead of Honda – leaving the Japanese manufacturer with Red Bull sister team Toro Rosso.
Well folks, we can’t say that we didn’t see this one coming. Well, we could, but whoever did will have earned themselves an afternoon in the Corner of Shame wearing nothing but a cap with the word “dunce” scrawled across it. Having exhausted all options to postpone announcements, McLaren has announced that it has reached an agreement with Honda to terminate their partnership at the summation of the F1 2017 season.
The news could be seen stirring forth over the announcement that Carlos Sainz will be traded over to Renault in a “all strings attached” deal that would rival your most clingy romantic partners. Through the deal, Sainz will head to the French Manufacturer’s garage while Honda steps in to supply Toro Rosso. It makes little sense, we know, but after three seasons of slamming their heads against the wall, McLaren will have certainly called in every favor and tugged every string possible to make it happen.
But now that the end has been signaled, what does it mean for the future of McLaren? Well, Alonso’s chances of remaining with the team have improved significantly now that Honda is out of the picture, as the source of the team’s woes have fallen squarely upon their shoulders. Although the venerated Spaniard has yet to make an announcement on his future within the team, we can assume that he’ll be far less likely to jump ship to IndyCar if McLaren can once again return to the top of the grid.
As far as the purported engine power McLaren will receive is concerned, rumor is that McLaren will receive a power unit on par with Renault’s factory team and Red Bull. Even if the rumor doesn’t pan out, having a PU that is far more stable is all McLaren really needs at this moment. Honda, to their credit, have been able to improve on the deliverable power over the course of the 2017 season – but that tinkering and tweaking has come at the cost of severe reliability issues and ludicrous grid-place penalties on the drivers.
McLaren have shown that their aerokit is efficient enough to be up there along with the top dogs, but without the power delivery necessary to keep pace, they’ve been treading water for far, far too long.
Yes, McLaren’s future is already looking brighter, and they seem to have managed their split with Honda with as much poise as possible. Although there is still room for things to sour between now and the end of the season, the possibility of such an event happening is highly unlikely. As much as Honda would probably like to rant and rave, they’re in no position to – and they must navigate the remainder of the season with enough care to ensure that they don’t cause any more damage to the brand that they’ve been dragging through the mire for the past three years.
It’s hard to remember the last time that a F1 partnership failed so spectacularly; and perhaps that is with good reason – there hasn’t really been such a dramatic and consistent failing in performance delivery since the McHonda era. An era which will, to the delight of many, be coming to a close at long last.