SINGAPORE, Singapore- Formula One team McLaren on Friday said they would stop using Honda engines and go with Renault next season, after an unsuccessful partnership with the Japanese manufacturer.
The celebrated British marque announced a three-year deal covering 2018, 2019 and 2020 with Renault, who said they were splitting with Toro Rosso — who will now be powered by Honda.
The announcements had been widely flagged and could ultimately herald a shake-up in the pecking order of Formula One, which is currently dominated by Mercedes and Ferrari.
Honda’s exit is likely to convince two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who has repeatedly threatened to quit over the misfiring Honda engines, to stay at McLaren next year.
“Today’s announcement gives us the stability we need to move ahead with our chassis and technical programme for 2018 without any further hesitation,” said McLaren executive director Zak Brown.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo set a new lap record as he led the timings in first free practice for the Singapore Grand Prix on Friday.
Ricciardo clocked 1min 42.489 just after the hour mark, beating the now-retired Nico Rosberg’s 1:42.584 set in qualifying last year around the Marina Bay street circuit.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is bidding to reclaim the world championship lead from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, was second fastest at just over one-tenth behind Ricciardo.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, 19, was fourth fastest ahead of Hamilton in fifth as drivers felt their way around the track and tinkered with the setup of their cars.
Several drivers briefly lost control early in the session, including Nico Hulkenberg who kissed a wall, and his under-pressure Renault team-mate Jolyon Palmer.
Hamilton has a narrow, three-point lead in the standings from Vettel, after winning three of the last four races — including this month’s convincing victory in Italy.
Ferrari is predicted to have the edge over Mercedes at the comparatively slow, demanding circuit, which favours speed through the corners over raw pace on the straights.
Vettel is also the most successful driver in Singapore, with four race wins so far and a brilliant performance last year when he went from last on the grid to finish fifth.
Formula 2 racer Sean Gelael of Indonesia had his first practice outing for Toro Rosso, finishing third last at 18th on the time sheets.