The worst kept secret in Formula One is finally official: at the end of the 2017 season in favor of for its power units. Honda will see its power units move to starting in 2018, giving the Red Bull Junior squad its first ever factory engine deal.
This ends months of speculation about what will be in the back of McLaren's chassis in 2018, and see Fernando Alonso re-sign with the Woking-based team for the near future. We should also soon have confirmation that Carlos Sainz Jr. will be racing with Renault in 2018 as part of this highly confusing trade.
For Honda and McLaren, this ends a partnership that started off with the hope of reigniting one of the most successful pairings in F1 history. McLaren and Honda partnered from 1988 until 1992 for 44 wins, four constructor championship titles, and four driver championships. The hope was that a new partnership with Honda would rekindle that success. Instead, it brought nothing but disappointment. McLaren never won with Honda and seemed to be retiring from more races than it finished.
Interestingly, there is a bit of a parallel with the past here.
In 1992, Honda decided to leave Formula One after its run of immense success, which put McLaren in a bit of a tough spot. The team went to Renault to replace Honda, but a deal couldn't be worked out. That left McLaren with customer Ford engines for 1993, which were mildly successful, but not the factory engine agreement that Ron Dennis craved. So, Dennis went to Peugeot to provide a factory backed engine to the team for 1994 and beyond.
The engine was an unmitigated disaster, frequently blowing up and leaving McLaren winless for the first time since 1980. Instead of a long-term deal, Dennis immediately went to Mercedes and struck a factory deal starting in 1995. It paid dividends, with McLaren winning titles in 1998, 1999, and 2008. When the Mercedes partnership ended in 2014, the team went to Honda again. But instead of the success of the past, they got a partnership more similar to the one with Peugeot: poor power and poorer reliability.
The next three seasons of Renault power should at least see the team put in some solid results, and maybe a win here and there, like McLaren did when it had customer Ford engines. Now we'll just have to wait and see if 2021 gives McLaren a new factory engine deal with a supplier that'll help it return to its past dominance. Perhaps another name from its past, like Porsche, could appear on the cars in the future.