Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2020

Hamilton hopes McLaren-Mercedes join “three-way” 2021 title fight

2021 F1 Season

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Lewis Hamilton says he hopes McLaren’s switch to Mercedes power next year brings them into championship contention with his team and Red Bull.

At the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Lando Norris qualified within two tenths of a second of Max Verstappen’s pole position time and both Mercedes drivers. Speaking after qualifying, Hamilton said that he relished the sight of his former team McLaren in the fight for the top grid spots.

“I’m really happy to see the McLaren so close, particularly with how they’ve got changes and they’re using our engine next year,” he said.

“It’s great to see that at the end of the year with a good car so that they can perhaps be in the fight with us next year. If that makes it a three-way team championship, I think that would be amazing for the fans to see.”

McLaren last used Mercedes power in 2014
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl is encouraged by their first steps with their new engine supplier.

“In terms of the co-operation we have for the partnership with Mercedes it started really very well, straight from the first meeting onwards,” he said. “It’s a very open co-operative partnership.”

The two have a long history of working together. McLaren were powered by Mercedes between 1995 and 2014, and were their factory team for much of that time.

“The guys in Brixworth are very, very experienced,” said Seidl. “There’s also obviously a lot of history between the guys in Brixworth and McLaren, which helped us to get going again,” he said.

“But it is also clear that it is a different partnership compared to the past. There’s a Mercedes works team in Formula 1 and we are a customer but I’m very happy with everything I’ve seen so far.

“The integration of Mercedes power unit is going really well and I’m sure we will be in good shape next year from the first race onwards.”

Read Dieter Rencken’s analysis of what McLaren’s new £185 million investment means for the team in this week’s RacingLines column

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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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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37 comments on “Hamilton hopes McLaren-Mercedes join “three-way” 2021 title fight”

  1. It’s nothing short of adorable how desperate Lewis is convince the world that he isn’t going to cruise unchallenged to his fifth world title without any realistic threat from outside his own team.

      1. @valkrider I think he meant 5th consecutive.
        @klon

        1. I think maybe that @jerejj, @valkrider but I’d take it as fifth world title without any realistic threat from outside his own team – 2008 was with Ferrari threat, obviously, 2018 had one too (though I’d say 2017 started that way too and 2019 slightly looked like it for a bit, I can live with seeing it as just the one), leaving 5 that were at most team-internal fights, is that correct @klon ?

          1. @bosyber, precisely. Admittedly, I’ll say 2017 is down to interpretation. I personally think the period from the British GP to the US GP reflected the actual performance of the respective teams and the races before that were more about Mercedes underperforming than the Ferrari actually being a competitive car, but again, that’s personal interpretation.

    1. @klon – spot on, mate! I’m a Ferrari fan and through the years I learnt to live with the thought that Lewis was the most deserving driver of this generation (maybe beyond). But when it comes to his press-talk it’s usually so clean and friendly that it’s hardly believable.

  2. At this point, I’d settle for a two-way fight.

    1. @red-andy

      I’d settle for a fight between the Mercedes drivers

    2. Yes, I would be happy for any fight for the title at all really @red-andy, @todfod.

      Sure, nice if the likes of McLaren, Aston Martin and Renault can dabble with Ferrari over the midfield and 3rd spot. But if the best thing we get is Max occasionally looking like he might be able to split the Mercedes on Saturday and force them not to cruise to the line from lap 12 onward at the top, it doesn’t really make for excitement.

      1. Indeed @red-andy, @todfod, @bascb, any realistic fight at all would be good to see. Hard to see it come from Bottas. And my fear with a stronger McLaren, hopefully Renault, Austin Martin more consistent up there, and perhaps even Ferrari, would be that what happens is that the 2nd Red Bull has more trouble getting out of that fight, and Verstappen has harder work to even threaten any Mercedes in the races. But, good to be optimistic Hamilton, let’s not give up hope I guess?

        1. The last time someone stuffed a Merc engine into a car that wasn’t designed for it pretty good things happened, so lets not give up hope yet. Not that i think it’ll really happen, but no one thought Honda/Brawn GP would be a winning car in Dec 2008 either.

  3. I don’t think Wolff would agree to turn Merc engine down whole year.

    1. Wait. Did he meant he’s not going to be around next year?

  4. Well, they’ve got the Mercedes engine, two very good drivers, and a sizeable injection of cash. All they need do now is get rid of that God-awful paint scheme and they’ll be onto a winner :)

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with their current paint scheme, in fact, I think it adds a little more vibrancy to the grid as compared to Williams, Haas and Alfa. But if you ask me, any personal favourite has been their colour scheme from 1997 to 2013. Those cars just looked like more formidable… more front running.

      1. Orange and blue…… just No :(

        1. With respect to Bruce McLaren R.I.P., it is not orange, but papaya, as in the fruit.
          In ’21, could be blue/orange, as in Gulf Western Oil colours.

    2. I could not disagree more. I find the current livery to be the most stunning one of the grid. Love that orange/blue combination on the car. And it is very close to their heritage.

      1. Errrmmm……

        I know the colour was applied to the last cars that Bruce raced, but it was chosen by Teddy Mayer – who nobody gets particularly misty-eyed over.

        The original “McLaren Orange” was a rather different hue from today’s in-your-face ‘Papaya’ (question why a Kiwi would have felt any sense of ‘heritage’ at the time in the colour of the flesh of a Central American fruit….)

        I’m afraid much of this is down to ‘modern McLaren’ trying to make a play for ‘heritage’ as an excuse for no longer pummeling the opposition instead. There was a time when they were too busy moving forward to bother looking back.

    3. Awful paint scheme? Papaya, as the team calls it, pays tribute to the McLaren heritage! The cars were painted in that color in the early 1970s. I like it! It makes them stand out from the bland white and silver car teams on the grid!

  5. I really hope McLaren have learnt from their 2018 debacle and are able to make the necessary step forward with their chassis-engine integration. I wonder how different the Mercedes power unit-drivetrain will be from the Renault one, and if it’ll necessitate any changes to the floor and rear bodywork of the car.

    1. @wsrgo

      From what I’ve understood the entire car concept revolves around the way the engine integrates in to the chassis.The airflow around the side pods, engine cover, diffuser, rear suspension setup, floor etc. will all have to change to accommodate for the new engine.

      Given the current cap on development for 2021, I see Mclaren at a huge disadvantage for next year. Whatever gains they might have on the engine side will be negated by the lack of chassis development. I think Mclaren should just look at 2021 as a development year and get rid of any teething issues. 2022 should be their focus.

      There’s some wishful thinking on Lewis’ part. I’m pretty sure he knows Mclaren won’t be competitive up until 2022.

      1. Yeah, I agree there @todfod. The best McLaren can hope for is that the Mercedes engine will be good enough to offset the compromises made to get it into the car without completely redoing it.

        There really isn’t much scope to do anything close to fully integrate them with the tokens restricting adjustments that can be made to the chassis I think @wsrgo. They will be looking at doing that in 2022

  6. A nice idea, but everyone including Red Bull will be miles behind Mercedes again. I would like to be wrong, but with this year’s cars being practically carried over to the next season, it will be nearly impossible to get your car anywhere near Mercedes. McLaren will be busy implementing the new engine, so the aero works will be heavily compromised, and there’s a small chance that with the limited work you can do, Red Bull will be able to solve their balance and overall handling issues. But I hope we can get an occasional Perez/Gasly moment next year.

  7. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    17th December 2020, 9:23

    I do agree with Lewis that it would be amazing to have a proper title fight with more than 1 or even two teams, but it comes with mixed feelings.
    A: chances of McLaren setting such a step (reaching and in a way overtaking Red Bull to get alongside Mercedes) are rather slim, as they’ll first have to find the same level of chassis Mercedes has been investing in for years. It’s more likely that McLaren catches up to Red Bull and we get a better fight for the final podium spot. But, just as this entire season, that’s not interesting at all. If the fight isn’t for the victory or the championship, why bother?
    B: It would be a few years too late and feel very fake to all of a suden say ‘ah yes but now we finally have a team that we can fight against’, as it was Niki Lauda who tried to get Mercedes to sell an engine to Red Bull years and years ago. Mercedes said ‘no’ because they didn’t want to run the risk of losing against a company that produces energy drinks.

  8. I’d be surprised if McLaren could challenge the top two teams due to the cost cutting restrictions on them developing next years car. I’m sure I read that the Mercedes engine is smaller then a Renault but they are limited in how much they can develop around it.

  9. It’s not just engine, there are a lot of other factors I’m honestly praying McLaren can at least be confident about so that the Merc engine just makes them more competitive. Hopefully the drivers won’t have any issues adjusting more so Danny Ric.

    Looking forward to next season.

    However, I don’t think there is another driver out there to take it to Hamilton.

    1. @icarby As much as I admire Hamilton I think there are a couple of drivers who could take him on.

      1. @johnrkh They all can take him on. As Bottas keeps lamenting, it’s the beating over a whole season where the difficulty lies.

  10. I think McLaren have done their home work and with Ricciardo joining the team they will be tough opposition for RB at least. I wouldn’t discount Alonso and Ocon either, both top flight drivers in an improving car. With RP having to design their own car for 2021 I think they’ll drop back a little.

  11. There’s more to rebuild.

  12. I’m not sure Hamilton really wants a fight because he’d be praising Russell and insisting he gets a drive for Merc.

    I can’t see McLaren with a customer engine challenging the works team.

    In fact no-one will be challenging Mercedes in 2021 since the specs are the same.

  13. It is interesting to see he didn’t mention Aston Martin (currently Racing Point). Is this because he perceives them as not being a threat or are they a bigger threat than McLaren-Mercedes will be? I suspect it is a bit more of the former, but with the right ambition AM could be taking the race to Mercedes. Ferrari are supposed to be bringing a new more powerful engine along, which presumably will pass the FIA’s close inspection, so they should be capable of taking the race to Mercedes. Also Red Bull need someone better able to complement Max, and if they do then they should be able to take the fight to Mercedes. Sadly, it seems Honda will be “signing off” from F1 for what might be the last time ever. Ferrari have offered them their engines, so hopefully RB won’t miss a beat when Honda depart, and maybe even have a new “spring in their step”.

    1. @drycrust Here’s what I suspect. I don’t think LH actually believes any customer of any pu maker can truly compete with those who are in the factory works setting. I think by naming McLaren, he’s acknowledging them as their (Mercedes’) new customer team, and of course he has the sentimental attachment to them as being his first team in F1. And they had Merc engines before including the whole time LH drove for them. So of course he is going to pump them up verbally. They’ll be no threat to him.

      But as to why not AM? I only have to refer to how vehemently Zak Brown objected to Tracing Point as he happily called them, to support my point. And I have no doubt LH has talked with him, and even if not, has sensed the resentment within the paddock, moreso for some than others, about RP ‘getting away with’ the level of copying they did, albeit it costing them some money and some points over the rear brake ducts. Zak Brown wasted no opportunity all season in firing off digs at how they haven’t designed their own car. When you look at Mac’s excitement come the end of the last race, at having bested RP in the WCC, that wasn’t about the extra money at all imho, but the point of pride. I think counter to that Zak Brown particularly would still have not had a restful night’s sleep since last weekend, had RP beat them. That would have burned him to no end. And I’m sure he would have revived his gripes against them had they beat Mac in the WCC.

      So aside from RP never actually really competing consistently without faltering, and being a mid-field team rather than something closer to the top, and thus being set aside in LH’s comment in favour of Mac, I wouldn’t be surprised if LH is offended on Mac’s (Brown’s) behalf at a team that doesn’t design their own car.

      As to Ferrari, yeah of course totally remains to be seen how much they’ll improve over this year, but of course they have the most room to grow and should appear to make a leap even if they still won’t be a bother to Merc.

      The concept is out there of Max needing a closer teammate in order to take the fight to Mercedes, and sure sometimes that can help depending on the race, but certainly Max isn’t going to hope for it or depend on it as his mentality is that if he’s out front nothing behind him matters. He’s just going to go for wins no matter what. But of course yes sometimes strategy wise his teammate could help disrupt Mercedes a bit once in a while. Merc is not to be so easily trifled with either though, and they know how to react to strategy plays, and in general I think Max figures the easiest thing for him is to be so fast and so up there at the top that a teammate for the most part doesn’t affect his day.

      And yeah, it’s going to be fascinating to see what RBR does pu-wise. Can they work something out to continue to use Honda? Or will it be Renault or Ferrari? Or do they have something else up their sleeves? Real hard one to call right now but imho Ferrari would probably be their last choice I would think. Unless of course they come out with something magic for next year that is also legal. But yeah here’s to them hopefully not skipping a beat for the 2022 car assuming a ‘strange’ new pu in there and not somehow a Honda developed by another party. That’s a big ask though I think. But then I’m ever hopeful that without the dirty air effect drivers will have much more opportunity to surprise us even if they’re a little down on power.

  14. A mclaren with a merc engine is not a mclaren sorry

  15. So Lewis is the bad guy for wanting mclaren to be competitive next year? It is his ex home in F1. Mclaren and merc jointly invested in Lewis all those years ago. Why would he be saying such things with any animosity?

  16. Dear Lewis. McLaren fans hope their team finishes ahead of both Mercedes and Red Bull. :-)

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