Andretti announce Honda engine deal for 2018
As well as shaping the IndyCar season, could this have big implications for Formula 1?
For some time now there has been speculation that Andretti may be about to hammer out a deal with Chevrolet for a new engine supply, from the 2018 season on.
The director of motorsport competition at General Motors, Mark Kent, did nothing to dispel these rumours, admitting recently that they are looking to expand their reach in the IndyCar field and, having partnered Andretti in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, they are one of the teams they would be keen to work with.
Racer broke the news last night, that Andretti had, in fact, decided to stick with Honda engines for now, although they stopped short of disclosing the length of deal that had been struck.
This announcement comes after the news that Indy 500 winner, Takuma Sato, has taken the decision to move teams, returning to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as they field a second car for the 2018 season.
Sato’s move means that Andretti Autosport now have a vacant seat and, with the confirmation that they will run the Honda engine, there is the potential for deals to be done further afield.
So, why would this matter in Formula 1?
McLaren Honda Formula 1 team stepped into the IndyCar world in May when their double World Champion, Fernando Alonso, was given the opportunity to compete in the flagship event, the Indy 500, in the Andretti machinery. This was said to be part of a personal quest for Alonso to be only the second man to achieve the coveted ‘Triple Crown’ – winning the Monaco GP, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Despite suffering mechanical failure, it was considered a successful endeavour, with Alonso qualifying in the top 6 and running in the lead for much of the race until his retirement. It did his profile in the States no harm either, with him appearing more than happy to entertain in the endless press conferences and take part in media events with the other drivers.
The McLaren Honda F1 partnership has been fraught from day one, with Honda seemingly unable to resolve major reliability issues with the hybrid power unit and unable to compete on outright pace with the competition.
This has lead Alonso to become increasingly frustrated and, no shrinking violet, he hasn't hesitated to vocalise this frustration both in the media and over team radio, during races. Some of his more scathing remarks include comparisons to a GP2 engine and stating that he had “never raced with less power”, as well as expressing embarrassment on a number of occasions.
With the vacant seat at Andretti and Alonso’s McLaren Honda contract expiring at the end of this season, could he make a more permanent move to the states to feed his hunger for competitiveness? The Honda partnership would certainly make for a more seamless transition.