Lando Norris, McLaren, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Mercedes agreed McLaren engine deal because it wanted “more competitive customers”

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has explained why the team agreed to supply engines to McLaren again in 2021, seven years after their previous supply deal ended.

Wolff said Mercedes believe they stand to learn more from supplying their engines to “competitive” rivals.

“I think that a new era is going to start in 2021 with a compressed grid, with more competition,” said Wolff. “And we believe that from the power units side there is more learning for us in this exercise with having more competitive customers adding to the two the two that we have.

“We rate McLaren strongly. The steps that Zak [Brown] and Andreas [Seidl] have initiated certainly already look very promising. So the advantages outweigh the potential deficits of fighting a hard competitor like McLaren in the future.”

McLaren became Mercedes’ works team in 1995 and the two enjoyed championship successes together, mostly recently in 2008, when Lewis Hamilton won the drivers’ championship. In 2010 Mercedes returned to F1 as a works team, and four years later McLaren split from them to use Honda engines.

The new deal announced today means Mercedes will supply three customer teams from 2021. Although this will create greater logistical demands for them, Wolff believes that will be outweighed by the benefits.

“We were always very strict straight from the beginning that we said we want to give a hundred per cent concentration on our works team. Then we stepped a little bit away from that by supplying Manor. So we had three customers back in the day and we actually learned, we realised that it was an advantage of having more power units out there.

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“There’s maybe a process and logistic question because everybody needs to be supplied at the same time. But I think there is more more upside in it going forward. Then of course there is a financial upside. It’s a cash flow question which is helpful on the power unit side. So overall many ‘pros’.

“There is one risk in this and that is that if McLaren does a good job they will push us hard and maybe benchmark us in a way to say ‘OK that’s the same power unit, you guys are not doing a good enough job’. But where we are now after seven years in the hybrid era we feel that we are we are ready for that step.”

Mercedes has not yet committed its works team to continue in F1 beyond the end of 2020 and Wolff did not indicate whether it intends to be more than an engine supplier from 2021.

“We have a strong set-up as an engine supplier, which goes back a very long time, and we have a works scheme that that has been has been doing well and both have merit jointly and independently,” he said.

“So this is not, just to avoid any misunderstanding, this is not a point where we could spread our bets and say we may stay as an engine supplier, not as a works team, this is not what I’m saying, we enjoy being a works team.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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24 comments on “Mercedes agreed McLaren engine deal because it wanted “more competitive customers””

  1. Err, then why supply Williams?

    1. Exactly what I thought. Why in the World supply a team that is so mismanaged.

      Resign, Claire. Resign.

      1. claire is doing alright. Stop with those stupid attacks on her.
        There are a lot of things not working as they should but thinking its all related to claire is very mono-causal thinking.
        Several high profile “men” with large egos left because they were not able to perform in the Williams organisation.

        1. Indeed, and also, the full quote reads more as ‘we want more of our competitors using our engine, which gives us more telemetry/data, and money’ than as the suggested desire to finally have a competitive customer.

          The latter they already had until at least 2012. In addition to which, Racing point are investing a lot and likely to move forwards over the coming years too.

          Of course, they might have had McLaren already had they offered them an engine for 2018,as requested, so that might at first suggest the latter meaning.

          However an easy counter would be that a deal from 2021,new regulations, with the Ferrari PU being so strong already and Honda seemingly quickly improving, has changed their equation, and the data needed, for this heavily data driven team.

        2. claire is doing alright.

          That’s EXACTLY what the other 10 F1 Team principals are thinking. Williams F1 Team is the one left with no monies at the end of the season. As long as the Williams F1 team continue their downward spiral into oblivion by being poorly managed as a family business and being cheap and risk adverse in a “sport” that, by definition, needs volumes of cash infusion in a continual basis, Claire will be doing alright, from the perspective of their competitors. The buck HAS TO STOP with someone for the last 5 years of poor decision making at Williams. If not Claire, who?

          And, by the way, there is no attack on Claire. As I said before, she is a wonderful person, but trying to please daddy in a position she is totally unqualified for is leading to demise of the once-glorious Williams F1 Team. Jobs will be lost and lives will be affected. She should realize she is not fit for the position.

          1. “The buck HAS TO STOP with someone for the last 5 years of poor decision making at Williams. If not Claire, who?”

            The Ghost of Championships Past, who despite being supposedly retired to an advisory position actually lives at team hq and continually (unintentionally) undermines his daughter.

            With all due respect for what Frank achieved in the past, it’s long past time for his role in the team to be reduced to honoured guest at races. You can’t have two bosses,and he won’t let go of the last bits of control so Claire is really the boss. At the moment she lacks the power to run the team properly, because people know that if they really disagree with her they can appeal to her dad and have her overruled.

  2. It also provides them with a handy replacement ‘works team’ if (as some rumours have suggested) Mercedes decide they don’t fancy committing to the future as a team of their own. I imagine such rumours are wide of the mark but one never does know…

    1. @neilosjames A lot of that does make sense, you wonder what type of money they put into 90’s/00’s relationship with McLaren and what marketing reward they got from it? Presumably they spent a lot less than they spend now, and in marketing terms, this cycle is surely coming to an end (the diminishing rewards for repeatedly winning). It makes a bit of sense to say, ‘we bought Brackley below market rate (i’m assuming), got what we wanted in terms of exposure but that is becoming less and less with each year, sell Brackley now, keep Brixworth and our toe in the water, and call the whole thing a profit.

      Meanwhile Mercedes is still in F1.

      1. “in marketing terms, this cycle is surely coming to an end”

        It strikes me as odd that Ferrari are the only car company who thinks it’s worth staying in F1 long term. Surely at some point another car company – perhaps Mercedes – will decide to do the same?

        It’s all speculation, of course, but I’d be more surprised if Merc announced soon that they’re leaving F1 than if they announced a commitment for another 10 years.

  3. Is Toto already sayoing “2021 is maybe the closest championship ever”, as the team opens 100 points advantage.

  4. Maybe Williams will go back to Renault

    1. No, they’ve re-signed. Racing point wants freedom.

      1. Would be fascinating if Racing Point goes with Renault or Honda.

  5. Mercedes don’t get enough credit for wanting the field to be competitive in spite of their dominance.

    Ferrari would never be so conscientious of the sport as a whole with such an advantage.

    1. True that. It was Mercedes who agreed for the engine development to be opened up which was originally supposed to be frozen at the end of 2016 I think.
      The likes of Honda and Ferrari would never have caught up, never mind Ferrari overtaking Mercedes in PU stakes.
      They gave away their advantage for the sport’s sake, not many top teams would do that.

  6. Early move in an exit strategy?

  7. Nothing happens in F1 by chance (with the exception of Rule-making process, which involves rolling d20 dice and spinning with eyes closed to point to one of X options)

    I fully suspect that they will not want to participate in pseudo-F1, created by “scientific” methods mentioned above, so adding McLaren is a good “exit-strategy” option.

    We’ll see what happens soon.

    1. addition/correction: will not want to participate in “new” 2021 pseudo-F1…

    2. “scientific”

      “Oh no”

  8. addition/correction: will not want to participate in “new” 2021 pseudo-F1…

  9. Oh Fernando..🤦🏼‍♂️

  10. First of all, I want to say that I greatly appreciate the work of Dieter and Keith here, bringing us not only coverage of the F1 race weekends and everything in between, but also exclusives. I enjoy that a lot.
    And although I don’t consider myself a nitpicky person when it comes to small mistakes, especially regarding online publications, this article has left me a little dissatisfied with regards to the necessary step of proofreading.

    “[…]there is more learning for us in this exercise with having more competitive customers adding to the two the two that we have.”

    “But I think there is more more upside in it going forward.”

    “[…]and we have a works scheme that that has been has been doing well[…]”

    These are minor mistakes and this seems to maybe have happened during copy-pasting from a Notepad file or sth. where this text was originally written. Yet, I’ve got the feeling that I’ve seen those mistakes creeping up in recent times on this site.
    As motorsports journalism seems to be getting more and more monopolised by the minute (*cough* Motorsports Network *cough*), I can understand that releasing content as quickly as possible for the sake of generating more clicks than your competitor and thus increasing your reach may be absolutely essential.
    Yet personally I would rather wait a little longer to enjoy a thoroughly proofread article, I hope it’s not just me thinking this way. Again, nothing against the work of Keith, Dieter and their colleagues. You’re doing an amazing job. It’s just something I have been noticing for a while now and just wanted to get it out there.

    Btw, I’m totally aware that I’m potentially discrediting myself here if this post contains any mistakes after proofreading, but be that as it may xD

    1. On that note the Brembo people REALLY need to hire a native English speaker/writer to parse their articles before publication on an English language site……

    2. Yes, I agree, I don’t think it’s been creeping up lately though, I think it’s always been there.

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