McLaren-Renault, Toro Rosso-Honda A Done Deal, Report Says
The folks at Woking have had enough, and the McLaren-Honda-Renault-Red Bull web is at its most complex.
What do Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren, Toro Rosso, Honda, and Renault have in common? They're all tied up in a co-dependent matrix of plans for next season, and McLaren-Honda's at the center of the whole circus. As we all know by now, McLaren wants to be free of the shackling Honda engine, and Honda wants to maintain their presence in Formula 1. With their Sauber and Toro Rosso plans falling through over the summer, their only option is to stick with McLaren. But the Woking-based team is through with Honda, and is trying to secure Renault engines for 2018. According to Minardi, McLaren-Renault in 2018 is a certainty.
Officially, it is almost four months too late to change engine suppliers without a vote, or some form of FIA Ex Machina on the behalf of McLaren and Scuderia Toro Rosso. In spite of what we heard of the faltering STR-Honda deal last month, a report by Auto Motor und Sport claims that the 2018 engine supplier swap between McLaren and STR has gone forward, despite the questionably legality of the change, and that it will be announced at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend.
Renault was reportedly willing to lose STR as a customer on one condition only: they get Carlos Sainz Jr. We already know Renault has been trying to buy off Sainz from the Red Bull program, but it seems the French team could not wait for season's end to ditch Jolyon Palmer. AMuS reports that Palmer's contract will be concluded with a payday for the Brit, whose last race with Renault is said to be this weekend, in Singapore, with Sainz taking his seat from Malaysia forward.
As for the open STR seat, it is said that current Super Formula driver and GP2 champion Pierre Gasly will fill that role after Sainz's apparent departure prior to Malaysia. Gasly would be evaluated alongside Daniil Kvyat for a future in the Red Bull program.
STR would be a relatively low-stress, cheap alternative to McLaren for developing the Honda engine. The embarrassment of holding back a historic team and a champion driver will be gone for Honda, which needs only deal with a junior team and lower midfield drivers. The cash provided by Honda for development could offset the loss of Sainz to Renault, too, making the deal beneficial to all involved.
AMuS is typically a reliable source for even the most hard-to-swallow of motorsport news, but the complexity of these negotiations and the difficulty that these teams will have circumventing the rules leaves us questioning whether McLaren-Renault and STR-Honda will truly be a sight on next year's grid. Should we hear anything during this upcoming weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, we'll let you know.