Lando Norris, McLaren, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

McLaren to drop Renault power for Mercedes in 2021

2021 F1 season

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McLaren and Mercedes will reunite in the 2021 season after McLaren confirmed it will end its Renault customer engine supply.

McLaren has signed a four-year contract to use Mercedes engines. It was previously powered by Mercedes from 1995 to 2014.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said the announcement is “an important step in our long-term plan to return to success in Formula 1.

“Mercedes is the benchmark, both as a team and a power unit, so it is natural we would seek to secure a relationship with the company for the next phase of our journey.”

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul said their customer team had “different ambitions” from the works outfit beyond the end of next season.

“Since our partnership began, McLaren has gone from ninth to fourth position in the constructors’ championship,” said Abiteboul. “We can therefore consider this a very successful relationship.

“However, while looking beyond the terms of the current contract, which concludes at the end of 2020, it was apparent that Renault and McLaren have different ambitions for the future.

“Each of the different elements of this decision have been carefully evaluated over the past few weeks. 2021 will be a crucial season for all teams and it is important for us to have a precise and clear view of the strengths and ambitions of our competitors going forward.

“This decision is in line with Renault’s vision to become a works’ team, with a goal to return to the front. Renault will continue to honour its commitments to McLaren Racing next season, as has always been the case over our long history of engine supply.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 50 comments on “McLaren to drop Renault power for Mercedes in 2021”

    1. Whoaahhh!!

    2. Well, call me a cynic, but that’s a bit painful for all involved. McLaren admitting they will probably never better Mercedes or even Renault (despite their infrastructure and ‘pedigree’) and also that the Renault isn’t good enough (despite Renault’s repeated big-mouthing through Cyrile). Mercedes the only winner in this story.

      1. @hahostolze – then again, it’s going to be good to see a constructor with good capabilities mated with a top-of-the-line PU, instead of the second-rung customers that Ferrari and Mercedes have had thus far.

        1. @phylyp last time McLaren had a top engine they were still bad

          1. @hahostolze – but I’m optimistic after seeing them this year. After half a decade spent under the delusion of a good chassis, they seemed to have hit rock bottom, and have propelled themselves upwards from there.

            My optimism stems from the fact that they have the funds, talent and infrastructure to come back to the top of the game, and won’t be hamstrung by finances (like most of the midfield) or willingness to invest (like Renault).

            1. As much as we like to pile it on Renault for a dud PU the fact remains their power units have won races every year of the hybrid era up until this one (I think that’s true, don’t crucify me if it’s not). Unfortunately as we see the power units converge in terms of output McLaren have to be able to win with whatever unit is in the back of the car, Merc aren’t the gold standard for the PU anymore, the Ferrari is immense and the Honda is catching up, Monza showed that Renault is up there for output as well. I can’t imagine Renault aren’t all that fussed about the loss of a customer.

              I’ve been impressed by the improvements finally shown at McLaren, and the driver pairing and team looks like something that should be stable for a couple of years… I hope that they can’t continue their upward trajectory upwards

            2. That’s being a bit generous towards Renault, isn’t it?

              Red Bull won with a Renault in the back.
              Red Bull won with a Honda in the back.

              There’s a common thread there, but it is not Renault.

      2. I read, no one believes Renault is going to stay. Cyril has done his job.

      3. Or maybe McLaren count on Mercedes continuing ONLY Aš An engine supplier past 2021 @hahostolze

    3. Oh yeah! I’m happy for McLaren.

      ”Renault will continue to honour its commitments to McLaren Racing next season, as has always been the case over our long history of engine supply.”

      I’m not holding my breath, Cyril. I remember Toro Rosso towards the end of 2017.

      1. In fairness, McLaren haven’t been bad mouthing Renault since they switched. I doubt there is nearly as much bad blood. as there was with Red Bull and Toro Rosso at the end.

        With Red Bull, it was like trying to maintain a good working relationship with your ex while they go around telling everyone at work about all your faults and inadequacies, even making sarcastic quips at meetings in your presence as if it’s all good.

        As for McLaren, I think they have a weakness in working with an engine supplier outside of the UK. They had serious cultural differences with Honda that ultimately broke their ability to reconcile and work through the problems (and Honda obviously had the capability and eventually did). Another European company shouldn’t be as difficult, but I’ve certainly seen enough Monty Python to know that’s not so straightforward. ;D

    4. Could this mean Renault are quietly getting closer to the door?

      1. Or it could be the first move of Mercedes F1 towards their exit strategy. In a short time Hamilton and Wolff will both be gone, so how will the future Mercedes F1 team beat that record of achievement?

        1. My thoughts exactly

        2. I read it as this, Merc preparing to have a decent presence in F1 after they depart on top.

          1. This is my guess too, the return of the defacto works McLaren Mercedes once Merc leave

        3. Huh? Hamilton will retire at some point, although I see nothing to stop Merc signing the next best driver once he does.

          Baffled by the Wolff comment, though. Have I missed something? Wolff is 47, immensely successful, and owns a third of the team. Why would he be leaving?

          Really I think the notion that Merc will definitely leave F1 at some point in the future is overstating things. They could well decide that, like Ferrari, it’s a long term commitment and a key element in their branding, and remain in F1 permanently from now on. Or then again, they might leave at the end of 2020. I wouldn’t want to try and predict anything with any certainty.

    5. I think this has been coming for a while, too many suspicious reliability issues now that they’re challenging Renault. Unfortunately the Mercedes package will likely not be top dog then and they’ve thrown away the Good years they could have had with Mercedes power from 2014-2019. Still glad for the team though as it does look like Renault are going backwards on the engine side.

    6. Mixed feelings
      Renault were ok with mclaren being competitive (changed?) but Im not sure if mercedes will play nicely IF mclaren make it to the top again.

      Which is kinda likely, if they continue at this pace by 2021 they would definitely be competing against red bull.

    7. Great news for McLaren, wonder what this means for the Mercedes team though, disbanding in 2020 and focusing on being an engine supplier?

      1. Also wondering about that…

      2. @emu55

        yeah, i have a similar line of thought.
        isnt there a rule that states that you can supply engines to only three teams on the grid ? I am unsure if that includes the works team or not.
        In 2021, we would then have 4 teams — RP mercedes, williams mercedes, mclaren mercedes and then mercedes themselves.

      3. Probably yes… 2020 seems quite early, but until 2025 i think there is a good possibility Mercedes as a constructor will leave the sport. As an engine supplier i think they’ll stick around and maybe that’s where McLaren is betting at. As the richest customer they will “inherit” the status of works team, which will be crucial at the next engine rule change, whenever that may be. Also much of the staff that made Mercedes a great team will move there, hopefully making the team more competitive.

        1. @black – that makes a lot more sense. Rather than a certainty of a Mercedes constructor’s exit, this seems like McLaren are hedging their bets with a PU supplier who’s likely to stick around.

      4. Teams don’t just disband, they get sold, and if Mercedes sell the team it will be worth a LOT more with an engine supply contract attached. So whether Mercedes sell the team or not, they’ll almost certainly be supplying 4 teams with engines.

    8. WHAT?!?!
      That is surprising.

      I wonder what it means for Mercs’ plan for own team

    9. Great news, but with Mclarens luck I wonder if Renault will overtake Mercedes for pr performance in 2021

      1. This was my thought too. Mercedes confirmed worst power unit post 2021 :)

    10. The McLaren story post 2013 just feels like lost time

      1. @frankjaeger McLaren was horrible in 2014 with the Mercedes hybrid engine in the back, but they truly messed things up when they went looking for a more competitive engine.

    11. Only way I can make this make sense inside my head is to assume that the reason why mercedes wasn’t willing to sell engines to mclaren (after they got rid of honda) were either simply some personal issues between the leadership at mclaren and mercedes at the time or that it was simply down to ron dennis who felt that returning to mercedes engines would have painted him in bad light after the failed honda effort.

      After all it was ron who made the claim (and rightfully so) that the only way to win in f1 was to have factory team engine support. And so the statement made at the time was that it was not going to be possible to be competitive to use customer engines against the factory team using those same engines. Maybe even someone at mercedes also did not like that. Because such statement form ron implies that mercedes would play favourites (of course they would and did).

      So then when honda kept failing in the mclaren the best option for mclaren would have been to go back to mercedes. But for ron this would have meant going back on everything he had stated earlier. Losing factory support engine support and going against the factory team who has it. Going back to the way it was. Going back to something that was unworkable just couple of years before. Maybe the engine deal denial was also a chance for that mercedes exec to rub it on ron’s face when his switch to honda did not work out. Or who was it who made the switch. Did mclaren ditch mercedes or did mercedes ditch mclaren?

      But the issue with this idea is that the timelines don’t match. Ron was basically fired from mclaren at the end of 2016 and by mid 2017 he had lost all of his powers at mclaren according to wiki. And the renault engine deal was done september in 2017. If ron was the issue then he could not have really blocked the move back to mercedes engines.

      Maybe mercedes is pulling out after 2020 as a team. Or maybe renault is pulling out after 2020 altogether. Those two ideas make more sense than any personal vendettas I speculated about above. Merc has to sell engines to mclaren to either have a competitive team with merc engine after mercedes leaves after 2020. Or merc was simply forced to sell engines to mclaren because renault was not going to be there after 2020.

      1. @socksolid Yeah your “conspiracy” theory (not really conspiracy) doesn’t make sense. It could be as simple as Mercedes can’t afford to have 1 more customer in 2018 (in financial sense) given how late the deal with and Renault can afford to do so because they lose RBR. As why McLaren wait until 2021 for new Mercedes deal could be simply because Renault demand multi year contract and McLaren doesn’t have strong bargaining chip to oppose that.

        Besides McLaren and Mercedes parted ways nicely. There are no bad blood between them. Mercedes considering exit strategy and making McLaren Mercedes the de facto works team makes more sense. Especially since Racing Point doesn’t look like WCC materials anytime soon and Williams is even in worse state.

    12. Lewis Hamilton return to McLaren Mercedes on year 2021 anyone? Lol
      Too bad Ferrari PU is the benchmark now.

      1. In what world?

      2. No reason to think Merc can’t produce even better engine.

    13. Indeed, ferrari PU overtook mercedes since a while, other than the benchmark like they’ve written.

    14. I can’t get my headbaround why on earth the FIA and FOM would agree to letting Mercedes power a fourth team from 2021 onwards. Not only would it put Renault, one out of only four engine manufacturers, in a financial predicament where a sole team has to bare the whole financial burden of engine development, and thus risk that eventually it gets too much and is forced to withdraw from the sport. It also gives Mercedes even more political influence than they currently have. Powering 4 out of 10 (or 11) teams will give them lots of sporting advantages too: placement of young drivers, influencing teams’ vote on sporting and technical matters etc.

      It really only makes sense if Mercedes has already decided to withdrawal at the end of 2020. They could’ve informed the FIA & FOM about it so they’ll go along with today’s announcement, but actually if Mercedes themselves are not participating in 2021 no special permission is needed to supply Mclaren, so they might’ve not even bothered to tell the FIA. The FIA might be as surprised as any of us today, but they’ll quickly be able to connect the dots depending on what kind of conversations they’ve had with Mercedes.

      Given recent reports that apparently Mercedes plans to soon discontinue all development of internal combustion engines for road cars, and them entering Formula E, it makes sense to withdrawal from F1 and reinstate Mclaren as their prime partner just like in the good old days. If Mclaren are able to show enough progress, showboat their new windtunnel etc they might even convince Hamilton to return. How good a story would that be..
      Also Mercedes wouldn’t need to be bothered with investing into an all new car for the 2021 regulations. They can throw all their eggs in one basket for 2020 and make sure to win their final season and go out on a high. Job well done and not a penny spend unnecessarily.

      1. Because the (current until 2020) rules state that any manufacturer can supply up to four teams. It is in Appendix 9.c of the sporting regulations.

        Besides it is (imho) not yet confirmed that Racing Point will race with Mercedes engines post 2020.

    15. I actually liked McLaren-Renault. Honestly thought there were rules against manufacturers supplying so many teams? Leaves Mercedes with 4 teams, Ferrari with 3, Honda with 2 and Renault with just one – wasn’t 3 the limit?

      Not sure what the point of the switch is really. If they were going to struggle to win the world title as a customer of Renault do they really think they’ll be better off as a customer of Mercedes? Also switching engines – again? They’ve just started to get themselves back on track, why invest in more change?

      Also, was tempted to get a McLaren shirt as I kinda like the papaya but if I do it’ll be outdated in like two years. So I guess I won’t then.

      1. The search for deeper meaning here overlooks the fact that the Renault engine is by a margin the worst in the field, has been for a while, and shows no sign of improving. Mercedes have had the best engine until very recently, and are only slightly outpowered by the Ferrari. They’re providing better engines for less money; no more explanation than that is needed for the switch.

    16. Williams-Renault next?

      1. Williams announced a few days earlier that they renewed the contract with Mercedes to run their engines through to 2025. I don’t know here Racing Point stands among these changes, but I’d wager they’re the ones more likely to turn to Renault if someone had to.

        1. Miss that… So RP and Panthers are the only options for Renault

          1. Panthers – the Asian flavoured Renault junior team – will probably be running Renault engines and Renault drivers, but only if Zhou and friends can get enough backing to make the team viable.

    17. “Not only would it put Renault, one out of only four engine manufacturers, in a financial predicament where a sole team has to bare the whole financial burden of engine development”

      If that happens, it won’t be anything other than the result of Renault’s ongoing failure to build a competitive engine. The rules were deliberately designed to allow for the possibility of an engine supplier producing an engine no other team wants to buy.

      1. Well, Renault should’ve made better engines. Honda has been giving their’s away, and it proved to be more valuable. It doesn’t make sense to align yourself with a poor engine, going into a big regulation change, and Renault haven’t showed any signs they will come out swinging in 2021.

    18. The start of a repositioning for the future I think, Merc have said they are going to stop producing ICE-powered cars in a few yrs. I would imagine Renault and Honda are also looking at moving on and the changes that Liberty are trying to bring on will only hasten the exit of the big manufacturers.
      They may continue to supply ICE to the small pure racing teams for a little while, but for the corporations the future is elsewhere.
      I don’t know where this will leave F1.

    19. Interesting.

    20. mclaren’s roadcars have got decent engines so why dint they build their iwn f1 engines ?

    21. At the Spanish Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas dominated the entire qualifying session, finishing in first place each time, thus giving him his third consecutive pole of the 2019 season. Hamilton however, got past him quickly at the first corner in the race. The safety car was deployed on lap 44 after a collision between Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Lando Norris, which ultimately did not change the positions of the top 6 runners. Mercedes finished again for their fifth 1–2 finish as Hamilton took the chequered flag (along with the fastest lap point) and Bottas four seconds behind. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen completed the podium.

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