by H. Mayor – photo: f1.com | Lots of things were brewing behind the scenes at Monza last weekend as outfits try to resolve one of the great dilemmas of this years’ F1 competition: Who will McLaren partner with to supply their engines next year? Different media revealed on Sunday the materialisation of an agreement between the Woking scuderia and Renault… but that doesn’t mean the story ends here.
The weekend competition also staged the developing negotiations between all the scuderias involved. It all started with the snapshots of Honda’s top representatives arriving in Monza to bargain their position in front of McLaren’s executives and other F1 chiefs. And it all ended with yet another embarrassing performance for McLaren after a race where both its single-seaters were unable to finish let alone compete at any level. The divorce is definitive as it is the decision from Woking to change partners for next year, leaving Honda’s image badly bruised. McLaren wants Renault to supply their engines starting next year.
The gridlock however is on the other side of the table. Honda is not prepared to break the contract that binds them to McLaren until 2021 without having another guaranteed supplier agreement with a different team that will allow them to remain in F1. Over the weekend however, as McLaren and Renaults’ position were getting closer, those of Toro Rosso and Honda seemed to be getting further apart.
Toro Rosso holds the key
Currently, Toro Rosso holds the key for any change to take effect in McLaren. As far as F1 ‘politics’ are concerned, Honda has considerable weight and no intention whatsoever of leaving the World Championship. The Italian outfit is currently their only alternative to remain inside but there are other factors in the equation: the weight of Red Bull in the negotiations regarding its subsidiary; Renault’s compensation demands to Toro Rosso if they end up going separate ways (they want to have Carlos Sainz); and even Fernando Alonso’s future. Everything points out to the twice-champion signing again with a hypothetical McLaren-Renault partnership.
The French manufacturer has also clarified another question to both its clients ( Red Bull and Toro Rosso) and their own outfit on the grid: under no circumstances they will consider supplying a third team at this point: “There have been some reliability issues with the engine, some small things that we want to solve and improve, and that’s one of the reasons why we don’t want any more clients, we don’t want to dilute the efforts for next year” explained Cyril Abiteboul, Renault’s executive director. The tight deadlines are also constraining the negotiations at this stage in the process.
To sum it all up, McLaren has already made the decision to break up with Honda and has finalised an agreement with Renault. This agreement however is only viable if the French manufacturer can lighten its portfolio of commitments. The only way to do this would be to give up Toro Rosso which would then partner up with Honda themselves. A complicated predicament but one that needs to be resolved very soon.