By Joao Lamberio & The Judge 13
Murmurings continue of McLaren’s intentions to make their own engines. Having severed ties with Honda after three abortive seasons to resuscitate former glories, McLaren find themselves with Renault power and in so doing, become exposed to some ferocious competition in the face of Red Bull and a resurgent Renault team.
Thus far it looks a fairly seamless integration with caveats as to how testing can be misleading, but it’s becoming more apparent that plans to make an engine are accelerating as the 2021 F1 engine regulations became clearer. High on McLaren’s agenda is to relinquish traditional reliance on manufacturer support, the original vision that previous McLaren boss Ron Dennis had moving to Honda in 2015 – never to rely on a customer engine.
With recent finger pointing this week between Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Claire Williams about customer engine parity, it is clear that there is an obvious distinction between the haves and the have nots in this complex hybrid PU engine formula; despite Williams’ line towing. Yes the PU is the same as the manufacturer ‘works team’ but lets be clear as to who’s employees are in Red Bull’s, Williams or any other customer team’s garage. The PU operations required at each race weekend, monitoring and advising on the software engine modes according to race strategy and situation is a task far too complicated for the lowly purchasers of a PU. For clarity, the individuals described here would be the engine manufacturers employees, not the race team, sitting at the back of the garage orchestrating F1’s destiny. Indeed how can anyone else apart from a manufacturer win a Championship now?
Recent revelations late last year of former Lotus F1 CEO Matthew Carter on Missed Apex Podcast, revealed that Mercedes PU engineers in the Lotus team garage allowed Romain Grosjean’s Lotus car a specific engine mode ensuring the lesser car (Lotus, now Renault) with the greater engine (Mercedes Hybrid), kept at bay a charging Ferrari, allowing the Frenchman an unexpected podium finish at Spa in 2015. Therefore it is patently clear, for McLaren to be a winning package, the rules of the game have not changed since Ron Dennis and they still need their own PU to be back at the front.
So how do they get one?
Ties with McLaren automotive the road car division, who are finally seeing some success and turning a profit, are in discussions with BMW for a joint engine programme that will be headed by McLaren and Ricardo engineering, with BMW on board for expertise and cost sharing and reduction. BMW in turn will use a variant of this engine for an as yet undisclosed M project Hypercar.
The board headed by Mansour Ojjeh (TAG Group) has pushed Mclaren away from the segmented structure with its clear delimitation between road and race teams, to a more amalgamated approach. The benefits, financially and of resources, can be shared across the company as a whole. It are these measures that have being taken to provide McLaren with the holy grail they have always sought, their own beating heart. The F1 team has aligned to this vision in a bid to have McLaren escape the manufacturer orbit, and become masters of their own destiny.
Zak Brown whilst initially coy, did give an optimistic assessment,
“I think the landscape in Formula 1 is going to change in a very positive way from ’21 onwards, with budget caps, revenue redistribution, and new engine rules”
Then came confirmation that an engine project was very much under consideration:
“We’re interested to see what the new engine formula is in 2021 – and whether we consider doing our own engine, or whether other people would come in under new rules”.
McLaren have been burnt by new people coming in under new rules (Honda), and would not fit in with McLaren Automotive’s vision of fully fledged engine builders.
The next option would be a continuation with Renault, which has advantages and disadvantages. Renault will have priorities not aligned to their supplied teams. The issue of sourcing engines from Renault also lacks the historical cachet of Honda, or the sheen of Mercedes-Benz. McLaren would also still be in the orbit of a supplier.
The ideal scenario for Brown to forge McLaren’s vision, relies on a swift solution to the 2021 engine regulations. Once these have crystalised, budgets can be formed leading to the promised land of an engine project, Brown continues:
“For us to do our own engine, that’s not something we’ve done before – We’d consider doing it. We just need to have an understanding of the platform, what are the rules, and what is it going to cost? We certainly wouldn’t be in a position to spend the hundreds of millions that it takes now to develop engines, so they’re going to have to change the engine formula for it to be something that economically would be viable for us.”
Initial plans have progressed, but are largely dependant on the outcomes of meetings still to be had by the FIA, engine supplier and teams. An initial project with an unnamed company in powertrains has been discussed, with the possibility of a joint programme that could yield either a go-it-alone engine, or even shared with a competitor, mimicking McLaren automotive’s strategy of sharing initial development. The possibilities here could lead to a “independent” engine initially, with McLaren spinning off from the project towards the later development phase. There could even be an era of cooperation between rival teams to McLaren such as Williams and Force India, who all could bring positive contributions to the ambitious project.
Rumours appear rife in the paddock as McLaren have hitched up to a long term partnership with Petrobras, which is not only limited to fuel supply but also dubbed “technology partnership”. This is telling, and gives a prelude to what McLaren are positioning behind the scenes with Renault in bed with Castrol, Mercedes Petronas, Ferrari Shell and Honda Mobil.The major obstacle in the way to McLaren building it’s own engine is money, but speaking at the Petrobras unveil, Brown was bullish as to their budgetary health. “We are on target for our financial goals for sponsorship revenue for this year, and I think again that will just build momentum”
With Petrobras, it is a piece of the puzzle required and one that has years of experience in F1 adding to the momentum Brown was pointing out. McLaren are also still without title sponsor, but with Renault power and a more consistent platform, a title sponsor will be inevitable this year, adding revenues to a team with grand designs on overcoming the odds to make their own engine. And they can look to their iconic founder for some much needed emotive inspiration.
“Life is measured in achievement, not in years alone”.
Stories of McLaren building their own F1 engine when there is a spec change have been around for ages. It almost always includes Ricardo and now has BMW as the main designer. The only two questions that need answered are – what will cost and who benefits. The odds are the new spec engines won’t be much different from today’s, the elimination of the MGU-H being the likeliest biggest change. Everyone of the engines used today cost in the $250M – $350M range to develop and $50M – $75M a year in ongoing development / R&D cost. Average the cost out over 3 or 4 years, without a customer, and McLaren and BMW will be looking at spending close to $100M each per year. Clearly McLaren gets an F1 engine, but what does BMW get out of it? An F1 derived engine that they can put into a hyper-car that may sell 100 units that they won’t make any money on? And does McLaren F1 want to be branded as a McLaren-BMW? I doubt it. I honestly don’t see how McLaren can afford it and don’t see much if any benefit for BMW.
The engine regs could be far cheaper than that of today, and trickle down technology will make some suppliers open to dual supply, as currently happens between teams in F1. McLaren spent close to 500 million in their divorce with Mercedes if you you also count loss of title sponsor, a hundred million will be seen as well spent if it meant a McLaren engine.
And BMW get affinity out of their involvement, in much the same way as when they spent millions making the 6.1 litre V12 for the McLaren F1.
They then get to use some of this tech themselves, given their biggest Rival, Mercedes, is about to launch an F1 powered hypercar.
Sure the regs could be a lot cheaper than they are today, but that isn’t in the interest of any of the current manufacturers, and ultimately it will be they who decide the 2021 engine spec.
What’s happened to the lay out?
The site looks totally different
When i tried to ‘like’ a post i was asked for login details and told I don’t exist so i will not be doing any liking.
Interesting, we recently upgraded our WordPress account. I will look into this asap . Thanks for flagging it
Theres an old saying Cav…..”If you cannot dazzle people with brilliance, then baffle them with bu!!5h!t!!! You certainly got plenty of bu!!sh!t for here I notice. Making future “guesstimates” ( Martin Brundles word not mine,#:), about the cost of power units and the cost of r and d and chucking up loads of numbers for everyone to read and marvel at is a load of hot air! Nobody knows what will happen next week, never mind 2 or 3 years time! Please do us all a favour and phuq off to a Skiddyrear Ferrari webshite where you can slag McLaren off to your hearts content with other like-minded “sheeple”. Read the article slowly and digest each sentence and paragraph carefully and you will see that Joao and j13 have spent a fair amount of time discussing this article, and have put together a really worthwhile read….I was hooked to read the whole article by the headline obviously,…..but there are a lot of possibilities, opportunities and allegiances that might be falling into place, and as for the……… “McLaren with the holy grail they have always sought, their own beating heart” phrase, it gave me goosebumps. I have loved and lost Ferrari many times since 1965 and I have loved and lost many other teams once or thrice also in that time because I am a Driver fan, not Constructor. (I love nearly all cars and bikes, even the ugly pieces of crappy sh!t if someone spent months or years making it.) Many years ago the Driver made the difference, now the fact is clear it is the CAR who becomes Drivers! Champion,,,, if the car is always winning the Constructors Championship!!! We had 4 years of Bullcrappers dominance with aero trickery and now we have had 4 years of Mercchumps dominance with “hybrid power units”!!! Bring back 3 litre V8s ! Anyway Cav….go back to Skiddyrear Ferrari forum and stop being so bias. #:).
Hahahaha. McLaren is finished. The owners should stick to racing camels – not F1 cars 🤣
I haven’t heard much about McLaren developing its own power unit. Maybe because the ‘building it’s own PU’-news recently was all about RedBull. There hasn’t been any PU news concerning RB recently. Because the 2019 RB-Honda team-up is a fact (?…)
To be a winner, you need a factory PU. Red Bull will have that with Honda. McLaren won’t with Renault because, other than during the RedBull-Renault glory years, Renault now have their own factory team.
During those RB-R glory years, RedBull claimed that glory, while blaming Renault when the new PU era started in 2014. RedBull seems to have bettered themselves recently, protecting Renault in the recent engine parity discussion (and pointing towards Claire Williams) and not taking sides in last years Toro Rosso / Renault quarrels.
Something similar happened the last 3 years with McLaren-Honda. McLaren claiming their usual outer earthly greatness while blaming Honda for everything that went wrong. ToroRosso-Honda’s trouble free, all smiles plain sailing start to this season versus McLaren not managing the perfect Renault PU integration now Barcelona temperatures have risen above 15C, may have also shed a somewhat different light at certain matters.
To me it seems RedBull have passed the ‘not the most grateful customer to have as an engine manufacturer’ relay baton to McLaren. They’ve cut their ties with Honda, Only Renault willing to give them a (customer) batch of PU’s. Due to McL also being a Sportscar manufacturer, Porsche (or whatever possible VAG entry) will also be out of the question. For McLaren it’s being a customer team till the end of time or build a PU themselves (with partners).
And Partners McLaren needs. For their know how and for their deep pockets. McLaren have been telling us they’re financially sound versus on target in their quest to find new sponsors. McL keep telling us they don’t need a title sponsor versus expecting one in the coming season…
Recently McLaren took up the position on the Formula board. A position offered to them years ago by old Bernie. Raising their influence in F1 and on the direction F1 is going after 2021. Problem: McLarens efforts into getting their preferred (read: cheapest) 2021 PU regs will be met by to other members of the F1 board: BFF’s Ferrari and Mercedes.
Interesting stuff coming up.
A political move by McLaren. Without the board seat, McLaren are looking pretty sad as a prospect for partners or sponsors.
Others will have been watching how Honda got treated. Convinced to do F1 a year before they were ready and punished at every turn. So who really wants to be whipping boy for McLaren next????
McLaren are a dying team. Their design is fundamentally flawed and the way they treated Honda, nobody will bother working with a bunch of prima-donnas like them. These are only political stunts, maybe to attract sponsorship, but same: nobody cares about a team that is associated with failure these days.
It is funny that some thinks that if you pay me to use your PU, I can’t complain if your PU is a dog…
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