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McLaren still committed to Mercedes engines until 2015

Laurence Edmondson September 21, 2011 « McLaren not disheartened by 2011 | »
Jonathan Neale: "I can give a cast-iron guarantee that it is our intention to stay with Mercedes-Benz" © Sutton Images

McLaren insists it is committed to staying with its engine supplier Mercedes during the switch from V8 power units to turbo-charged V6s in 2014, despite its closest rivals having their own factory engine deals.

Red Bull recently announced a five-year extension of its deal with Renault Sport, which team principal Christian Horner described as a "factory" deal, while Ferrari has its own in-house engine department at Maranello and Mercedes has its engine base in Brixworth. The integration between engine and chassis will be important in 2014 as capacity decreases from 2.4 litres to 1.6 litres and extra energy recovery systems are added. Red Bull, for example, has already talked up the significance of its "premium" partnership with Renault Sport and will work closely in the development of the engine over the next two years.

McLaren currently has a contract with Mercedes until 2015 but there has been speculation that it might look elsewhere ahead of 2014 or set up its own department to promote its road car division, which uses an in-house powertrain designed and developed with engine specialists Ricardo. However, managing director Jonathan Neale said the team is completely committed to Mercedes.

"I'm not going to discuss the contractual terms within that, but I can give a cast-iron guarantee that it is our intention to stay with Mercedes-Benz and these engines as we transition between here to the next generation of engines," he told the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "They are our engine partner, we very much like working with them and want to do so for many years to come."

He also batted away suggestions that Mercedes' engine department would be inclined to work more closely with its factory team.

"The assumption that we're not working as closely with Mercedes is incorrect," Neale added. "We've had a long relationship with Mercedes-Benz High-Performance Engines at Brixworth, we know the guys up there very well and we're a good team together. I think certainly we expect, and we are, working very closely with them ahead of 2014. Our job, as theirs is, is to make sure Mercedes-Benz has the best engine on the grid and is best prepared and most ready [for 2014]. I don't feel in any way that we are being disadvantaged or held at arm's length.

"I think sometimes when people look at the McLaren Group as a whole and look at the way the road car platform is developing, then I think in that domain of course there are lots of what-ifs and maybes and how its powertrain is going to develop there going forward. But we shouldn't confuse that with what's going on with the engine programme [at the F1 team]. Our focus is very much around our engine partners Mercedes-Benz, who do a first-class job for us and we expect to be an intimate and high-performance partner with them."

Asked if McLaren had been given guarantees that it will receive equal treatment alongside the Mercedes GP team, Neale said: "That's not a concern or an issue for us at all. I think there is one thing that ourselves Mercedes GP and Mercedes-Benz High-Performance Engines want, which is for Mercedes to have the best engine in 2014. The fact that they can draw on technical contributions and know-how from partners such as ourselves and Mercedes should only make them stronger."