Zak Brown revealed that McLaren did not consider Ferrari for F1 power unit due to brand clash as Toto Wolff explains Mercedes stance change from 2018 to now.
There’s a difference between clout and fame. Clout is a short burst of fame and popularity, that quickly dies. And, in a strange way, this is partly why Mclaren opted to go for a Mercedes partnership, instead of a deal with Ferrari, who have the best engine currently.
Also Brown cleared that Ferrari weren’t considered since the clash of brands, especially in the road car business which is not so much with Mercedes and or their previous partners like Renault and Honda.
“In F1 you have to look at a longer period of time other than a handful of races, obviously the Ferrari engine seems extremely strong at the moment but if you look at the commitment of Mercedes Benz, where they have been, and as a racing team which is a great yardstick,” said Brown to the media in Russia.
“For us we’ve not considered Ferrari, I also think it’s a clear brand clash with our McLaren road car business. From making engines, fiscally it’s nothing that makes sense for us. I think you need to be a significantly bigger OEM that can warrant the spend to justify the exposure it creates for a greater number of car sales.
“The above clearly does make sense for a Mercedes, Renault, Honda, but doesn’t make sense for a McLaren with the volume of cars that we sell.” By joining hands with Mercedes, McLaren is returning to their last golden time, when it won races.
The idea is clear to fight the German manufacturer at par but only time will tell if it happens as in the current era, none of the customer teams have been able to match the factory outfit, especially for Mercedes and Ferrari.
Renault has lost out in the case but the French team is still in the re-building phase. Brown is certain that Mercedes won’t bail out on parity as the telemetry data shows that they have given both Racing Point and Williams, the best available power unit.
He also cleared that the discussions with Mercedes only started in the middle of last year, with the decision taken in the summer, which allows the German manufacturer to prepare for an addition team and also for Renault to think about their future.
Brown added that Andreas Seidl was also key part in the discussions. Not renewing with Renault was surprising for many but with reports of Renault wanting a deeper connection made McLaren think otherwise as they wanted to keep their independent status.
It will be interesting on the fuel side with McLaren affirming the use of Petrobras, while Mercedes uses Petronas. On the other hand, Wolff cleared their ideas on having another team alongside the existing two and why they didn’t say yes for 2018.
“I think the situation has changed a little bit,” he started. “We were always strict straight from the beginning that we said we want to give 100% concentration on our works team. Then we stepped a little away from that by supplying Manor and we had three customers back in the day, and we actually learned it was an advantage having more power units.
“There ¡s maybe a process and logistic question because everybody needs to be supplied at the same time but as I said I think there is more upside in it going forward. Then of course there is a financial upside, so it’s a cashflow question which is helpful on the power unit side. So overall, many pros.
“There is one risk in this: that if McLaren does a good job, they will push hard, and maybe benchmark us in a way to say that ¡s the same power unit and you guys are not doing a good enough job. But where we are now seven years into the hybrid era we are ready for that step. To go back, Niki [Lauda] and I disagreed on the engine question, he was very much in favour of supplying Red Bull back in the day.
“We were in the early stage of finally having a team in a position to win and I was against it. When the decision came up to supply McLaren a few years ago, Niki said well you gotta stay true to your opinion back then and concentrate on the works team.
“I think the situation today is different, the 2021 regulations look totally different and will change the landscape and in this new day and age there needs to be an emphasis on the bottom line, we need to look at numbers, also in the same way, I don’t believe there is big downsides. We have got to do a good enough job any way.
“Engine convergence is happening, we can see some are a little bit better some are a little bit worse but these things will eventually converge over the next two or three years, there ¡s one thing that I can guarantee is since the beginning of us supplying engines in the hybrid era, always made sure there is equivalency between all power units.
“I think this is a decision which was important for Zak and Andreas, same hardware, same software, same specifications at any time, you can perfectly overlay power curves, we aren’t introducing specifications before customers but if we are doing it, we are doing it jointly or if we feel the works team is not ready for it but the team wants it, I think that’s a big advantage and part of McLaren’s decision to always know where they stand with benchmarking.
“With the crossover in cars the world is changing, there would have been no way big premium car manufacturers would have joined up and shared platforms or connectivity services and this is happening today in the modern world. We look up to McLaren and its road car spectrum in the same way we have an exciting little niche with our AMG cars, but there is no risk, we haven’t looked at it from a competition stand point on the road.”
Wolff also played down the suggestions that this is a way for Mercedes to eventually bow out and use McLaren as their bet for championships like the old times. In addition, the talks about driver exchanges between Mercedes and McLaren was also put off.
Here’s the story of McLaren confirming Mercedes move
The story has additional inputs from Duncan Leahy