McLaren are finally free from Honda!

McLaren Honda

Image: Artes Max – CC BY-SA 2.0

McLaren leave Honda for Renault

Sainz heads to Renault

Red Bull to join Honda in 2021?


After three years of horrific performance, diabolical reliability and no end of frustration, McLaren are finally set to walk away from their hellish relationship with Honda.

So bad was their time with Honda that they have actively sought a partnership with Renault just to get away from it. The French marque have suffered their own share of negative press in recent times.

It’s a desperate move by McLaren who just need to make progress after three fruitless years with Honda. The choice to make this switch in 2018 plainly illustrates how severe things had become.

Renault haven’t exactly dazzled since these new rules were introduced. Red Bull already tried and failed to get shot of their own Renault engines, and the yellow cars are only one place higher than McLaren in the constructors’ standings. Hardly convincing.

Nico Hulkenberg in a Renault RS.17

Nico Hulkenberg has score all of Renault’s points so far in 2017.                                                                                          Image: Artes Max CC BY-SA 2.0

You have to wonder what McLaren hope to gain with this switch. They must be looking over at Red Bull and thinking they could do better, because that will be the target when we get back underway in 2018.

Red Bull have somehow managed to drag that engine considerably higher than it ought to be however. If McLaren’s chassis is as quick as they claim, they could be challenging for podiums once again.

Podiums will have to be the goal next season. If, after all of this, the team are still struggling to score points, it will be embarrassing.

So who is the winner here?

Well Carlos Sainz Jr has managed to find a way out of Toro Rosso. It’s a good thing for Formula 1 because his career was beginning to stagnate worryingly.

He will be looking to mount an instant challenge to Nico Hulkenberg, something which Jolyon Palmer was unable to do.

It’s possible the move could happen as early as Malaysia. If so, the Spaniard has nothing to lose between now and the end of the season. He can spend these final few races settling into the team and getting comfortable in the car.

Carlos Sainz Jr

Sainz has spent three years at Toro Rosso.                                                                       Image: Willtron CC BY-SA 3.0

This is a positive step for Sainz, he now finds himself driving for a works team, a lot of drivers will be envious of that opportunity, He still has work to do though if he wants a car capable of winning.

It is unfortunate that Jolyon Palmer’s Formula 1 career is effectively over. He never really got going. The car has been poor, and sadly he was never able to get any kind of momentum going. Zero points in 2017 was simply not good enough.

Anyone else?

This isn’t a particularly outstanding deal for anyone. McLaren have got their wish, but I can’t them making any significant progress in terms of performance. Based on Renault’s results this year, unreliability remains a problem for them.

Toro Rosso look to have made a downgrade if anything. Honda have done little to inspire belief in their engine development – they promised a lot at McLaren’s pre-season launch.

Not only that but they have lost an exciting future star in Sainz. His replacement Pierre Gasly will be under pressure to prove he is a worthy successor. All of this must have some positive outcome for the Red Bull outfit?

All of the pieces will fall into place in 2021. New engine rules will be drawn up, and everyone given a fresh start. Those with the powers of foresight have deduced that Red Bull have only agreed to this swap because it opens a door for them to become a works team – with Honda.

Red Bull RB13

Red Bull could utilise their unique position in Formula 1                                                                                                  Image: emperornie CC BY-SA 2.0

Basically, their ‘B-team’ will be left to struggle with inferior engines while Honda attempt to sort themselves out. Then, when the playing field is leveled by new regulations, Red Bull swoop in a take over as a works outfit. Not sure how I feel about that.

Unfortunately, all this means that Robert Kubica has now lost his chance to drive for Renault. He is now linked with Williams as a replacement for Felipe Massa though.

For Kubica at this stage, I think he will be happy just to drive the car. Lance Stroll has shown that the car is good for podiums in the right conditions, so that could be an exciting match.

Fernando’s staying at McLaren?

Only Fernando Alonso could create such a seismic situation within Formula 1. He has become so vocal and so frustrated that his relationship with Honda was untenable.

I suspect he will tear those engines from the cars himself before leaving for the winter. But happily for us, Fernando looks likely to remain with McLaren for another year at least. Red Bull have shown what the Renault engine is capable of, he will be pushing to emulate that.

Fernando Alonso in a McLaren Honda

Alonso could not face another year with Honda.                                                                                                                              Image: Morio CC BY-SA 3.0

Fernando has obsessed over a third World title since his initial spell at McLaren in 2007. All he wants is the best car to win that title.

It seems strange that this move seems to have triggered his decision to stay. Looking at the current evidence, McLaren are unlikely to challenge until the new engine rules in 2021. Fernando will be aware of that, so unless he is intending to race for another five years, I’m not entirely sure what his motivation is. Maybe he knows something we don’t, but it wouldn’t be his first bad decision.

Either way, it will be good to see Fernando given the chance to race with equipment capable of completing race distance – most of the time. Let’s hope for the good of everyone at Renault that Toro Rosso do not finish ahead of him.

Simon Ostler

I am currently training to become a Journalist. I write best when my subject is something I enjoy. I have spent time working with CAR Magazine and Parkers.

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