McLaren-Honda partnership ends with a champagne toast
"We will miss them," says team boss Zak Brown ahead of divorce; Watch the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP live on Sky Sports F1 from 1pm
The McLaren-Honda era has signed off with a champagne toast and a message of 'we will miss you' from team boss Zak Brown to their divorcing engine partners.
Sunday's Abu Dhabi GP marks the final race of the McLaren-Honda partnership before their separation for 2018 when the 20-time champions will be powered by Renault and Honda will exclusively supply Toro Rosso.
Originally conceived as the dream ticket to beat Mercedes in F1's new hybrid-power era, the partnership has failed to deliver a single podium during three seasons of frustration and, ultimately, failure.
But in a farewell toast, Brown insisted: "Honda have been great partners. They are great people, we get on really well. It's been an incredibly difficult situation but they remain our great friends. We will miss them. Never say never, we could be back again together in the future."
McLaren's new deal with Renault runs for the next three seasons while Honda are considered to be favourites to power Red Bull in 2019 if, as expected, Renault cease to supply the former world champions.
Fernando Alonso will start Sunday's race at the Yas Marina Circuit from 11th on the grid, a couple of places ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.
"Fernando and Stoffel have never given up and driven unbelievably hard and been great in leading our team," added Brown.
In a telling insight, Alonso has admitted he regards his drive in the Indianapolis 500 in June as the solitary highlight of his season.
And the Spaniard admitted he was relieved to see the back of 2017.
"In any season when you arrive at the end and you haven't reached your expectations there is some sort of good feeling because you can turn the page and go for the next target," Alonso said.
"Clearly for next season we have high expectations and different goals. We are optimistic so it's nice that the season is finishing now so we can concentrate fully on 2018."