McLaren Racing and Renault Sport Racing have announced the end of the Formula 1 power unit supply arrangement at the conclusion of its current three-year contract, which expires at the end of the 2020 season.

It is expected that the Woking team will shortly announce a return to Mercedes-Benz power, which previously propelled it to three Drivers’ Championship title and one Constructors’ Championship.

“Renault has been instrumental to our Formula 1 recovery plan and a fantastic partner to McLaren Racing,” McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown commented.

“Despite its understandable focus on its factory team, Renault has always been fair, consistent and transparent in our relationship and we thank the whole team at Viry for the excellent service provided to McLaren in F1 over the past two years. Of course, we enter the final year of our relationship in 2020 and are focused on continuing our challenge together of closing the performance gap to the front of the field.”

“Since our partnership began, McLaren has gone from ninth to fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship,” added Renault Sport Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul.

“We can therefore consider this a very successful relationship. However, while looking beyond the terms of the current contract, which concludes at the end of 2020, it was apparent that Renault and McLaren have different ambitions for the future.

“Each of the different elements of this decision have been carefully evaluated over the past few weeks. 2021 will be a crucial season for all teams and it is important for us to have a precise and clear view of the strengths and ambitions of our competitors going forward.

“This decision is in line with Renault’s vision to become a works’ team, with a goal to return to the front.

“Renault will continue to honour its commitments to McLaren Racing next season, as has always been the case over our long history of engine supply.”

The rationale behind McLaren’s return to Mercedes power is sensible, giving it access to the best available power unit on the market.

The team has suffered a multi-year drift into the midfield wilderness following its split with Mercedes at the end of 2014. Its much-heralded reunification with Honda was a disaster for both parties, and while it has shown improved competitiveness under Renault power the bare facts remain that the Woking team is yet to claim a podium finish since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.

The current partnership with Renault was agreed when McLaren needed to split with Honda after three dreadful seasons of factory partnership. While the move has seen the team improve in competitiveness, the performance gains of the factory Renault team put it at risk of returning to second-tier status once again.

Customer teams have historically been at a disadvantage even if they are given identical power unit specifications as the factory team, simply down to the challenges of mating the engine that has not been designed to integrate with the chassis.

While the same situation will be apparent with Mercedes power, the switch is sensible on the basis of the Mercedes power units being more competitive. It might allow McLaren to return to podium-winning form that could be the stepping stone to attracting a new manufacturer.

Mercedes-Benz already supplies Racing Point and Williams – both of which are on multi-year deals – so a third customer team will not only give it more political clout but a further return on the investment it has made in developing its power units.

This will leave Renault without any customer supply teams, which will improve its focus to achieve its goals of returning to championship-winning form.

Engine Years Active Races Wins Podiums Poles FLs Pts Championships
Ford 1966 3 0 0 0 0 2 0
Serenissima 1966 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
BRM 1967-1968 13 0 0 0 0 6 0
Ford Cosworth 1968-1983 220 30 92 18 20 676 2 WDC / 1 WCC
Alfa Romeo 2015 4 0 0 0 0 0 0
TAG 1983-1987 68 25 54 7 18 405.5 3 WDC / 2 WCC
Honda 1988-1992 80 44 91 53 30 699 4 WDC / 4 WCC
Ford Cosworth 1993 16 5 9 1 1 84 0
Peugeot 1994 16 0 8 0 0 42 0
Mercedes-Benz 1995-2014 351 78 231 76 84 3098 3 WDC / 1 WCC
Honda 2015-2017 60 0 0 0 2 133 0
Renault* 2018- 36 0 0 0 0 151 0

* Correct to 2019 Singapore Grand Prix

Image via Autosport

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.