McLaren unhappy with possible Honda/Red Bull engine deal


The Friday press conference in Austin was an interesting affair and the FIA team principal’s appearance before the F1 media is fast becoming the one to watch. The drivers’ press event on Thursday has become a dull affair where the questions are insipid and the pre-programmed driver responses reveal very little.

Christian Horner got proceedings underway appearing surprised at the announcement Toto Wolff would not be attending due to illness. Horner quipped, I’m just very upset to hear Toto is ill and couldn’t make it, that his helicopter couldn’t fly unfortunately. Anyway, I wish him well and hope he’s OK. I’m sure there will be no fine, obviously. It should be about 100 million, apparently”.

Clearly Horner believed the Mercedes boss was avoiding his obligations with a deceptive excuse; presumably Wolff did not wish to face questions about engine supply and Red Bull.

The hot topic in the paddock this weekend is Red Bull’s search for a 2016 engine partner. When asked why Red Bull were not using the upgraded Renault power unit, Horner revealed I think the situation for the Renault engine, for the updated version, which they are referring to as the D-spec version, Renault have confirmed earlier today that the conditions for it to run in aren’t quite right yet, so that has been postponed to Brazil, which for us makes more sense. We wouldn’t want to be taken engines out of the car here or next weekend in Mexico”.

This is a convenient revelation from Renault, and perpetuates the belief that some kind of agreement for 2016 may be possible between Red Bull and Renault.

Horner was then asked about the reports that Red Bull were close to a deal with Honda for engines next year. “I think as we sit here there has been a great deal of speculation and interest in what the engine supply we are going to have next year is. As we sit here now, nothing is fixed. There is a lot of discussion going on in the background and hopefully there will be a resolution fairly soon”.

The change demeanour of the Red Bull boss was not lost on those in attendance; throughout the gathering he refrained from his usual flippant or sarcastic responses and answered questions thoughtfully – even when a no comment could have been expected.

In stark comparison a red faced perspiring Eric Boullier looked uncomfortable from the off. McLaren’s ‘team principal’ appeared irritable and when asked about the Honda/Red Bull story replied tersely, “It’s difficult to comment, other than we are happy with our partnership with Honda and this is what we wanted to achieve, to be a works team with an OEM. I can’t comment obviously on what Christian just said or whatever happens”.

Did Eric the believable give us a hint that McLaren may be forced to accept a Honda/Red Bull arrangement so long as their ‘works’ status was unaffected?

Boullier’s mood did not improve when Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph asked him about the nature of the departure of Kevin Magnussen from the McLaren family. The Danish driver revealed he was dismissed via an email from Ron Dennis’ PA on his 23rd birthday.

So, first of all, he has not been fired, as you said,” Boullier countered. “I want to tell you that his contract was ending this year, so there was an option to renew it or not and we decided to not renew it for several reasons. We as McLaren [know] that Kevin obviously has a great talent and he has to be praised for that and he should get a drive in Formula One next year and his career should get there”.

Finally addressing the question in part, the McLaren boss shrugged and stated: “Anyway he will have a successful career I’m sure. As far as I am concerned by the process, I will not comment”.

Johnson then queried, What does it say about the culture of McLaren?” Boullier looked to the MC for assistance and demanded, “Next Question”.

Maybe Eric wished he’d done a Toto and pulled a sickie too. But this was not the end of the questions on engines. Fernando Alonso made the bold claim on Thursday, “If we improve by two-and-a-half seconds, we will win next year.” McLaren’s chief was asked for his thoughts on the matter.

In something that resembled Rons-peak enunciated with a ‘ee-haw’ Gallic accent, Boullier replied, It’s an easy question because defining targets are always easy on paper. We know where we want to be as McLaren-Honda and if we get there we can obviously get what Fernando said. I’m not saying we’ll be there but we know we want to be there. We are definitely working on how to be there”.

Yet in reality two and a half seconds is on at the upper end of the kind of gain an F1 team would expect to make year on year when the car design regulations are relatively stable.

The matter of Honda/Red Bull was to return to haunt Boullier as Alan Baldwin of Reuters persisted. Eric, Adrian Newey said the other day in an interview that he understood that McLaren had a veto on Honda supplying another team with an engine. Is that the case?”

Clearly monsieur Boullier was now getting to the end of his tether, shifted in his seat uncomfortably and responded: I think it’s better to not comment any more on this discussion because obviously as we said already there is a lot of discussion behind the scenes. McLaren and Honda are official partners and obviously there is a due respect of understanding from each party.”

Its not difficult to deduce from this that McLaren do not have a veto on any Honda decision to offer their engine to other teams. And further, Eric Boullier’s appeal to Honda for ‘due respect of understanding’ of McLaren’s position on the Red Bull approach, makes it clear the Woking hierarchy is most unhappy with this possible development.

16 responses to “McLaren unhappy with possible Honda/Red Bull engine deal

  1. –“Yet in reality two and a half seconds is on at the upper end of the kind of gain an F1 team would expect to make year on year when the car design regulations are relatively stable.”

    Not when your engine is currently running out of stored power part-way down the straights it isn’t. How much of that 2.5 seconds would come straightaway if they put a Mercedes engine into the car?

    • ……….errrr, they had Mercedes power since 1995 but realized they would never get parity with a Mercedes Team competitor. ALL the Mercedes supplied power unit teams right NOW KNOW they are at least 25 horsepower down on the latest “works team” unit!

      • You can beat Mercedes with a Mercedes PU. Why do you think Red Bull doesnt have a Mercedes PU.

        You just have to actually be able to build a competent chassis, not botch strategy and tactics, and be able to handle a proper F1 pit stop, over and over.

        Funny how the mighty MAC will benefit from Red Bull “the fizzy company”. HONDA are actually excited for Red Bull’s expertise in the energy recover area – something they didnt need MAC’s help in.

        Funny how all the red bull bashers forget that red bull developed and used their own KERS system during the V8 era.

        Why didnt Renault promote Red Bull’s achievement in KERS during the 8 championships? Why didnt renault tell the world that without Red Bull’s clever KERS their under powered V8 wouldnt have been clinching titles so easily?

        • what a load of rub.
          RBs KERS program was a joke and against the intention of the system, in fact their complaints and veto of it is what hampered FER and McMercs implementation in the first 32 years ( oh them and Brawn) If they had been forced to run a full size KERS from the start they would have been stranded in the midfield –

          • Oh you mean a competitor in F1 took advantage of rules to their benefit? My god, you could never accuse your aforementioned and saintly clean team ferrari/McMerc of such a thing could you?

            How many championships did Ferrari and McMercs KERS system win during the V8 era. ZERO? 1? 😉

            I love how you completely prove my point though. IF it wasnt for Red Bull’s in-house developed KERS, Renault would have had ZERO championships. Remember, this is according you, thanks!

            Why do you think HONDA is excited about access to Red Bull Technology and not excited about Mclaren technology, their own works parter? hmmmm…

          • Layercake you talk rubbish, half the time RB,s kers system did not work (mainly due to newey,s packaging constraints – aero is king) when it was working it couldnt be used 100% because of overheating issues. Yet RB were still dominant with reggies engines.

          • @Nico – it was a fragile system, but it won didnt it? thank god red bull didnt need to have an over weight KERS from renault for their underpowered V8 to push around.

            Again, why doesnt renault thank RB for those championships?

            Why is honda excited about the new opportunity with RB?

  2. I wonder if this new development (Honda / Red Bull) pivots around money?

    RB have a boat load of it to throw around if they need to… McLaren, I wonder how vulnerable they are in this regard.

    • Mclaren must be so skint, their championship performance has been force india like for the last couple of years while their infustructure and staff numbers must at least double / triple.

      Honda must be putting a lot of cash there way in an unsustainable fashion, cash from selling engines to RB must look very attractive right now.

      All depends on if RB want to spend millions getting devorced for an engine that’s potential performance is still unknown

  3. ……3 things perplex me. Firstly, McLaren should deny unreservedly that they would even dare to think they should be able to impose a veto on who Honda supply power units to….secondly, on the grounds of “sportsmanship” and “fair play” you would think that Honda supplying more engines to more teams should help them increase power and reliability with their unit due to the input of 2 different teams which would ultimately benefit McLaren as long as their aero development is close to RBR, so you would think they would welcome the idea rather than act like a slapped brat! I think Fernando will be heading back to Renault next year…….maybe unless McL/Hon improve dramatically in the last 4 races! #:)

  4. As I understand it, MAC’s veto was only for the first year of the relationship. Obviously nobody else ran a HONDA this year so the veto was unnecessary (or did they use the veto and the public wasnt informed).

    So for next year… yeah MAC maintains Works stats, but its not like honda can afford to develep an A & B spec, so all teams will be running almost identical PU’s. I’d suspect if the MAC unit had a 20hp advantage Red Bull’s chassis (and perhaps software) would more than make up the deficit. Plus you know the 5 less pit stops Red Bull would botch over the season compared to MAC has to be at least worth 100HP.

    • I can’t remember what he said about 2015, but I vaguely recall that Arai in one of the press conferences (possibly even late last year… I think he sat in at Suzuka or something?) when asked about supplying more than one team in the future said there was no exclusivity agreement as such, just that for the time being the focus was the McLaren Honda partnership.

  5. Excerpt of Bernie’s comments:

    “Although Honda have got an agreement with the FIA and myself that they would allow them into F1 to supply to engines to one team for first year, two teams second and three teams the third.

    “And they somehow got involved and made a commitment to Ron that he had a veto on any engines, and he doesn’t want Red Bull.

    “He doesn’t want them. I think he believes they may be competitors.”

    Asked how McLaren could have a veto given the Honda/FIA agreement, he said: “In fairness to Ron, he probably didn’t know. I am not blaming anybody. They are the facts.

    “At the time when they came in the FIA said if we let you into F1 you have to supply three teams, they said as we are brand new into F1 we don’t think we can do that.”

    So Bernie and the FIA made a deal with Honda without letting Ron Dennis know, then Honda later gave him the power to veto whichever team is in question. Ok this is getting beyond ridiculous now.

    Full article :

    • It’s not ridiculous at all. When Bernie’s involved in a deal, anything is possible. This is F1.

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