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McLaren to finally ditch Honda engines, and a breakthrough Aussie podium finish

By Peter McKay, 11 Sep 2017 Motorsport

McLaren to finally ditch Honda engines, and a breakthrough Aussie podium finish

MotoGP gladiators battled it out in the wet, while backroom deals take shape in F1

Strong speculation says McLaren will have Renault power in 2018

Toro Rosso gets second prize; Sainz to Franch team

No-one from McLaren or Renault or Honda has actually confirmed that high-level talks have landed the British team the French manufacturer’s engines for next season. But Autosport is generally right on conjecture such as this, so we’ll go with the story….

In the wonderfully crazy machinations that operate rather routinely in Formula One, the complicated deal is apparently a goer. And it includes switching Carlos Sainz to Renault, a sweetener to Renault to end its engine supply deal with Toro Rosso in favour of McLaren.

Sainz would be pleased with the provisional deal. He escapes the prospect of having to use a Honda engine next year, and he fulfils a target to be with a factory team.

This lined up the ducks in a neat row. McLaren gets to end its unsatisfactory engine supply arrangement with Honda, sourcing from Renault instead. But this could only happen if Renault stopped supplying one of its other customer teams. Toro Rosso was the sacrificial lamb.

Toro Rosso gets to appreciate the frustration endured by McLaren these past three seasons. The Italian team switches to Honda engines, also taking a supply of McLaren gearboxes to mate with the Japanese company's power unit.

Honda gets to remain in F1. This was important. The Japanese giant saves face. And, hey, it has a chance of eliminating its unreliability and power issues and again becoming a force in grand prix racing. Maybe.

Intense discussions between all the parties at the recent Italian Grand Prix moved closer to a solution but Renault insisted it wanted some incentive to switch its customer supply from Toro Rosso to McLaren.

Ambitious to move up the grid but hamstrung by an inadequate second driver (Jolyon Palmer) alongside Nico Hulkenberg, it now has Sainz to help its efforts to move forward.

Autosport has also suggested that Sainz may jump to Renault as early as this year's Malaysian Grand Prix “if the outfit elects not to continue with Jolyon Palmer”.

If Sainz departs early, youngster Pierre Gasly is the driver likely to be slotted into the Toro Rosso seat.

Fernando Alonso, very much a victim of Honda unreliability at McLaren, is presumably positive about using Renault power in 2018. Maybe he shouldn’t speak with Max Verstappen.

MOTO GP: Marquez snatches a win in wet ‘n’ wild Misano

Rolling the dice at 280km/h

A daring Marc Marquez has splashed to a narrow victory in very tricky wet conditions in Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini at Misano, taking the lead a lap from the chequer, a move that puts him back at the top of the championship standings, equal on points with Andrea Dovizioso.

The treachery of a rain-saturated slippery racing surface only heightens the risk of crashing and Marquez arrived in Misano nine points in arrears knowing he needed to beat Dovizioso but also being acutely aware that another non finish – he has three so far this year – would be disastrous for his championship.

With Valentino Rossi missing from his home grand prix due to a broken leg from a training spill, Maverick Vinales was the lone warrior for the factory Yamaha team. The young Spaniard responded well too, taking pole from Ducati’s Dovizioso and Honda’s Marquez.

But at the start, Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo rolled the dice with an aggressive move past the front row riders, hitting turn one ahead, and then building on his advantage over Marquez. Australia’s Jack Miller also made a nice start to move to seventh.

Lorenzo crashed out of the race on lap seven and impressive Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci took the lead, with Marquez and Dovizioso giving chase, hounding, slipping, having occasional major moments.

As the laps ran down, Dovizioso clearly settled for a safe third rather than keep pushing.

With the title his main goal, Marquez was another weighing up risks versus rewards, but there was no surprise to see the defending world champion continue to lay it on the line.

Petrucci, fighting for his first grand prix win, was never going to be a pushover though.

On the final lap, Marquez pounced on the gallant Petrucci, making the pass in turn one and then, to rub it in, setting the fastest lap of the race as he held off the Ducati rider.

“This was one of the best races of my career,” declared an excited Marquez. “It gave me an amazing feeling because it required incredible concentration to manage the tension the whole time.

“It was very easy to make a mistake, and that’s why I decided to attack only on the final lap. That lap was amazing; I took many risks, but with such a close season, it was worth trying to get the five extra points for the win.

“Of course I was thinking about the championship the whole race. At the beginning the feeling wasn’t so good, probably because there was so much water on the track, and I had a couple of very scary moments. Lorenzo was amazingly fast early on, and so was Danilo later when he took the lead after Jorge’s crash, but I was able to follow him and finally to attack.”

Dovizioso claimed his first Misano podium with third, from Vinales, Ducati test rider Michele Pirro and Miller sixth.

Moto2 title favourite Franco Morbidelli crashed from the lead of the Italian GP on lap three, instantly changing the complexion of the championship and giving Thomas Luthi a massive opportunity.

While others fell down over the course of the race, Luthi stayed on board to take second place – and 20 valuable points, slicing Morbidelli’s lead to a manageable nine points with five races to run.

The Misano freestyle was won by Dominique Aererter, who withstood the pressure from the constantly probing Luthi.

It was a rare Swiss one-two result.

Australia’s Remy Gardner ran as high as eighth but had to settle for an unlucky 13th after not one but two crashes (and remounts).

Romano Fenati was imperious in a rain-saturated Moto3, staying on board his Honda to beat championship leader Joan Mir by an astonishing 28.5secs. Another stat to conjure with: there were 19 crashers during the 23 lap GP, some hitting the deck more than once. Despite the victory and 25 points he bagged, Fenati trails Mir (Honda) by 61 points in the title chase.

SPEEDWAY GP: Aussie Jason Doyle extends lead in world championship

Still on two wheels, albeit 500cc bikes with one cylinder and no brakes, Australian Jason Doyle has extended his lead in the 2017 World Speedway Championship after accumulating the most points at the weekend’s round nine, the German GP.

Doyle had to settle for third in the final won by Slovenia’s Matej Zagar but nevertheless takes a 10 point advantage over Poland’s Patryk Dudek into the next round in Sweden.

Doyle, who was a warm favourite for the title last year until injured, is showing the form to make amends this time.

Three grands prix remain – Sweden, Poland, and the final round in Melbourne on October 28.

EURO F3: Mawson scores breakthrough podium in Germany

Sydney’s Joey Mawson has scored score a hard-fought third place in dreadful conditions in the European Formula 3 Championships at the Nurburgring.

On a saturated track for the first of three races of the weekend, Mawson moved his VAR entry from eighth on the grid to fourth, before overtaking Callum Ilott (Prema) for third.

Over the closing laps Illot and Mawson duelled vigorously, both briefly leaving the track in the heat of the battle.

Mawson prevailed though to take his first podium in this championship behind Lando Norris (Carlin) and Jake Hughes (Hitech).

Mawson followed this promising result with a fighting seventh after a typically wild opening lap left him 10th.

Recovering, he fought back up the field, his victims including his team-mates Max Defourny and Harri Newey.

Jake Hughes (Hitech) won the race, Lando Norris (Carlin) came second and Callum Ilott (Prema) came third.

In the final race, Mawson made a good start from eighth on the grid and got up to fourth before Tadasuke Makino punctured the Aussie’s right rear tyre.

This left him 20th and last after a wheel change. He proceeded to work his way up the field again, passing a couple of sons-of-guns Pedro Piquet and Mick Schumacher.

A dislodged front wing and another puncture ended his race.

It was a disappointing end to what was a promising weekend.