McLaren and Renault Have Signed an Engine Deal for 2018, Minardi Says

The former team owner says that McLaren is Renault-ready for 2018.

Saeed Khan, AFP, via Getty Images

Gian Carlo Minardi doesn't often seek the spotlight these days, unlike some other former team owners. When he does stick his head out, though, he often does so with the intent of saying something important—like in July, when he criticized the faltering relationship between Ferrari and its customer teams. On Tuesday, however, Minardi made an official statement through his website, regarding the re-escalating McLaren-Renault rumors. In it, he stated that Zak Brown of McLaren signed a deal with Renault on Saturday, guaranteeing a power unit supply for the 2018 season and beyond— even if only as a contingency plan for the possible exodus of Honda.

Minardi claims that Honda's Yusuke Hasegawa is already back in Japan, drafting a new engine program. We speculate that this could be in preparation for another Formula One reentry at the dawn of the new engine formula, in 2021. Minardi claims that the partnership is due to be officially announced within one week of his Tuesday statement, possibly as soon as Thursday.

The decision to ditch Honda may have been backed by Honda's double failure to secure secondary contracts with other teams. They were slated to supply Toro Rosso next year, but that deal fell through due to shortages of both money and time. The Sauber-Honda agreement was upturned in July, after new management decided against adopting Honda engines, presumably due to a lack of competitiveness shown by Honda in what is now close to three seasons in the sport.

It remains unclear whether this alleged contract between Renault and McLaren is a backup in case of a Honda departure, or if it is now McLaren's Plan A for 2018. With the date for switching engine suppliers now months in the past, McLaren may need to exercise some political muscle to ditch their Honda-branded dead weight in time for 2018 if the latter is the case.