FERNANDO ALONSO will hold McLaren to ransom after stalling on signing a new deal with the team.
The Spaniard was a fundamental part in McLaren’s bitter break up with Honda, whose turbulent relationship came to an end in Singapore today after confirmation that the Woking-based team will switch to Renault engines for 2018.
McLaren’s decision is whopping gamble, worth around £165million, and they cannot be assured of instant success with a Renault engine in the back of their car.
Both Renault, and customers Red Bull, have suffered poor reliability this season and leaves McLaren out of pocket having lost out on Honda’s cash boost.
McLaren must now pay Renault for engines and stump up the full whack of Alonso’s £25m-a-year wages.
And in further bad news for McLaren, they will now be forced to wait an excruciating period of time before finding out whether Alonso will even commit to them for next season.
Insiders fear that Alonso will wind the clock down in an attempt to get an even better deal from McLaren, featuring improved payments and less sponsorship commitments.
The situation becomes increasingly more complicated as Alonso’s co-manager, former Renault chief, Flavio Briatore is overseeing the deal.
Which F1 races will be live on Channel 4 in 2017? Full Formula One TV schedule for the new season – all you need to know
F1 team Red Bull face losing star duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo after Renault terminate contract
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
Inside Lewis Hamilton’s love life – from a fling with Danielle Lloyd to dating model Winnie Harlow
And it could also allow the two-time world champion wriggle room to compete in Le Mans next season or have another crack at the Indy 500.
While it is likely that Alonso will stay with McLaren, mainly due to a lack of availability at Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, it will lead to increased pressure on the team’s chief Zak Brown.
Today the American was toasting the news that they had agreed a new engine deal with Renault.
He said: “The announcement gives us the stability we need to move ahead with our chassis and technical programme for 2018 without any further hesitation.
“As an organisation, McLaren has always worked extremely hard to form lasting partnerships with its technical suppliers.
“We’re convinced that we can bring real value to Renault Sport Racing as we work alongside it to develop this current power unit into a regular race winner.”
Renault’s switch has seen Honda now move to Red Bull’s B-team Toro Rosso, a move that will see Carlos Sainz join Renault.
And as SunSport revealed today, it has spelt the end of Jolyon Palmer’s two-year spell with the team.
Renault chief, Cyril Abiteboul, added: “Carlos is a very promising driver who has been on our radar for some time, especially after his successes in Renault junior formulae.
“We feel that Nico and Carlos will complement each other on and off track and the combination should help us push forwards on the grid.
“We must thank Jolyon for his ongoing hard work with the team and his efforts over the past two seasons.
“He is a dedicated driver and we wish him the best in the next steps of his career.”