The end of the 2014 season will mark the twentieth and final season for the McLaren and Mercedes partnership. After two decades of Formula One success, the two companies will part ways and wish each other the best as they proceed to beat each other’s brains out on track in 2015. Mercedes will do so with their own Formula 1 team and McLaren will approach the season with a new engine supply relationship from Japan.
While Honda are no stranger to Formula 1, having made their debut at the 1964 German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring, the Japanese auto maker is keen to dip their toe back in the piranha infested waters of F1 as an engine supplier. Most recently Honda had their own F1 team but left the sport in 2008 after handing the assets over to Ross Brawn who would later sell his team to Mercedes… yes, the Mercedes team was once the Honda team and now the Honda team will be encamped within the McLaren HQ in Woking.
The new V6 turbo engine format plays well with Honda’s road car division and the technology can be proven and perfected on the punishing grounds of Formula One. It is a gambit that FIA president Jean Todt had hoped would lure manufacturers back to the sport after his predecessor did very little to keep them back in 2008.
The McLaren/Honda relationship is nothing new to Formula 1 either. The two have worked together with amazing results in the past and when mentioned in the same sentence, many veteran F1 fans will get weak-knee’d at the thought of Ayrton Senna in a Honda powered McLaren. They were dominate back then and technical boss Jonathan Neale told Sky Sports F1 they will be again:
“There is no doubt that they will be massively competitive. Turbocharged engines in 1.6-litre category are something that is familiar to them.
“Obviously the new engine for 2014 in Formula 1 is a step and a big push, we don’t underestimate for a minute the work that we have to do together to be ready for 2015 – that absolutely goes without saying – but we’re very confident that together we can do that.”
I’ve advocated the need for a new engine supply arrangement for McLaren for some time but I’m not a Delphic Oracle by any means. McLaren knew they needed a new arrangement as Mercedes began poaching their technical and driver ranks securing the services of technical director Paddy Lowe and the driving talents of Lewis Hamilton. While I’ve often felt McLaren should roll their own, it appears they are keen to stick with a supply agreement instead of casting their own blocks and pistons for the time being.