Sainz Move To Renault Frees Up Space For Engine Deal With McLaren, Report Says
Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz signs with the French team, sweetens deal to end Renault engine supply early.
In a complex deal that involves Toro Rosso, Renault, and loosely McLaren, young Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr. has reportedly signed to switch teams in 2018. A deal with Renault was made to relocate Sainz and sweeten the deal for an early termination of the two's engine supply agreement, freeing up allotted space for McLaren to drop Honda and use Renault powerplants next season.
Motorsport.com learned of the deal on Saturday that will land Sainz at Renault as early as this year's Malaysian Grand Prix. Ultimately, he will join Nico Hulkenberg in the team's push to advance past the mid-field, enticing Renault to end its existing contract with Toro Rosso. This means that the Red Bull sister team will switch to Honda engines in 2018, a rumor that surfaced earlier in the year.
Renault had made its interest in Sainz clear after Sunday's Italian Grand Prix. His steady improvement was seen as a key element to the team, and having two young yet experienced drivers was enough for Renault to let Toro Rosso off the hook. Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko had already told Canal F1 Latin America earlier in the week that he "not be surprised" to see Sainz at another team, and as it turns out, he was right.
There's no clear replacement for Sainz at Toro Rosso, though young Honda junior driver Nobuharu Matsushita could be called up if released from his McLaren contract. Last year's GP2 champion Pierre Gasly is also in the conversation, making it an interesting development as to who will join Daniil Kvyat on the Faenza-based team come 2018.
The major news in this convoluted storyline is the fact that McLaren will more than likely sign with Renault as its engine supplier next year. This could be a solution to its ongoing problem with Honda that has upset both fans and star driver Fernando Alonso. Depending on the duo's success, it could also save McLaren from building its own engines in 2021 as Zak Brown had suggested earlier.
Alonso has made it clear that he wants a better car in the future, so a switch to the more reliable and slightly more powerful Renault unit could land him back in Woking for 2018. The double world champion announced earlier that he would decide where he will end up next year by the end of September. With that only being a few weeks away, expect this process to be put in motion as soon as possible to potentially lure 'Nando into returning to McLaren.
The Drive has reached out to McLaren for a response on the situation and will update this article with any information we receive.