Honda and McLaren have ended their relationship that started in 2015. After three seasons of underperformance from the Japanese engine manufacturer, McLaren has decided to cut their losses.
As a replacement, McLaren has turned to Renault for their engines from 2018. This deal seems to be months in the making, and the reason for that is it involves four teams, two engines and one driver. Amazingly, it seems that each has managed to win and lose at the same time
Pro’s–McLaren get shot of an underpowered engine and replace it with a more competitive one. They also look like they will retain the services of the mercurial Fernando Alonso–their best chance of a win.
Con’s–They lose a works deal with Honda–hugely important in modern Formula One– and the Japanese company’s money and sponsorship.
Pro’s–The gain a working relationship with an iconic team–McLaren. They also get hold of the very talented Spaniard, Carlos Sainz. The importance of that will be made clearer in a moment.
Con’s–Not many for Renault, they have just swapped Red Bull for McLaren, something that could be seen as a regression in the future. For their part, Renault is looking forward to McLaren adding competition and pushing Renault forward.
Pro’s–The biggest winner here. He gets out of Torro Rosso, who he had outgrown at least a year ago, and he gets a seat in a works team that is seemingly moving forward.
Con’s–In leaving Torro Rosso, Sainz shuts the door on a drive for the senior Red Bull team. Only time will tell whether this was the right move.
Torro Rosso/Red Bull
Pro’s–The most strategic move of them all. With Honda in the junior team, Red Bull can evaluate their performance without losing any of their own. If the Honda engine does become competitive, Red Bull can slap it in the back of their car and get a works engine deal that they have been desperate for since Renault returned as a manufacturer.
Con’s–If the Honda remains uncompetitive, Torro Rosso will slip down the pecking order. More worryingly though, with Renault dropping Red Bull at the end of 2018, if the Honda is still poor, Red Bull does not have an engine for the 2019 season works or otherwise.
Who has got the best deal?
If you exclude Carlos Sainz, then it is all about the future. If the Honda becomes competitive, then Red Bull will be the ultimate winners. If it remains where it is, then McLaren will gain the most. As for Renault, they pretty much stay where they are, so in that respect, they are the big winners.
In the short term, McLaren has played it perfectly. They get a new, more competitive engine and hold on to the double World Champion, without it seeming acrimonious.