McLaren may have finally found a way out of its bum Formula One engine deal with Honda, but it’s probably coming at the expense of Toro Rosso, according to multiple reports. Toro Rosso and McLaren will swap engine suppliers, but Toro Rosso’s best driver Carlos Sainz Jr. will be moving to Renault as a result.
McLaren is set to announce their divorce from Honda very soon—possibly as soon as this week, according to Sky Sports. Renault will then take over supplying McLaren with engines in Honda’s place next year. While Renault is the second least reliable supplier in F1 after Honda, they’re at least competitive when they work. Honda hasn’t been able to get up to pace in the past three years of working with McLaren.
This is believed to be enough to keep McLaren’s standout driver Fernando Alonso with McLaren for next year. McLaren told Sky Sports that it was “very likely” that Alonso will stay now, although of course they would. It’s in their best interests to say their star driver’s staying put.
But even they now admit that Honda’s sucking big hairy donkey balls at this whole engine-making business, with McLaren boss Zak Brown telling Sky Sports after last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix:
We need to get more competitive. This weekend showed we’re not making any significant progress.
Both of McLaren’s cars did not finish last weekend’s race at Monza. McLaren personnel were spotted in several meetings at Monza with Renault, however, lending some credibility to the reports of them striking a deal to run Renault engines.
Meanwhile, Honda found a new team to stay in F1 in Toro Rosso, who will drop their current engine deal with Renault to run the Honda engines next year. Toro Rosso are reportedly giving Renault’s factory team Carlos Sainz Jr. in order to smooth over them ending their contract with Renault early, according to “high level sources” who spoke with Autosport.
Previous reports have suggested that Renault felt that taking on another team’s engine supply would stretch them too thin, and this Toro Rosso-McLaren swap would also alleviate that. McLaren will also give the Toro Rosso team some of their existing gearboxes that mate with the Honda power units to help with the switch, per Autosport’s report.
Renault still wanted some incentive to swap teams their engine deal, and Toro Rosso is reported to have agreed to offer Sainz up as their human sacrifice. While that may be concerning for fans hoping that Robert Kubica might get his big comeback shot in a Renault next year, Sainz would be a good younger driver to put alongside Nico Hülkenberg.
Sorry, fans of current Renault driver Jolyon Palmer—he’s rumored to be the one to go. Renault may even replace him with Sainz as early as this year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Autosport reports.
There is one bit of promising news in all these reports for Toro Rosso fans, however. The Red Bull Junior Team driver development program has no shortage of decent drivers to move up into Sainz’s seat, including feeder series standout Pierre Gasly. Current McLaren development driver Nobuharu Matsushita was named by Autosport as a potential full-season replacement for Sainz, although he won’t have enough superlicense points to make that move unless he finishes third or higher in Formula 2 this season.
The only problem is, if Honda still can’t get their act together next year, will someone like Gasly really be getting the promotion he deserves?