(L to R): Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director with Zak Brown (USA) McLaren Executive Director on the grid. 18.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Race Day.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has revealed it has negotiated a “seat at the table” with Mercedes to grant it “more influence” on the marque’s new 2026 Formula 1 power unit.
Last week, McLaren announced that it would continue to run Mercedes engines until the end of 2030 as part of an arrangement that will cover the upcoming regulation cycle.
Having elected to partner with Honda for its return to F1 in 2015, McLaren returned to using Mercedes engines in 2021, accruing 15 podiums and a solitary race victory since.
Former McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who brokered the Honda deal, previously stated in 2014 that a works supply of powertrains was necessary to win titles in the modern era.
But Brown has refuted that assessment, divulging that the terms of McLaren’s latest agreement ensured it has bridged the deficit usually associated with a customer side.
“I’m of the view that you can win a World Championship with a customer engine,” Brown told Speedcafe in Abu Dhabi.
“I know that in our new contract, without going into great detail, the areas in which you would have shortcomings by being a customer versus a works team, we’ve addressed that and we have a great agreement with HPP [Mercedes High-Performance Powertrains].”
F1’s new power unit rules will target a 50-50 split in power output between the internal combustion engine and electric power, with a combined maximum output of over 1000bhp. They will also run solely on sustainable fuels and reduce consumption.
Brown likened the updated terms of McLaren’s deal with Mercedes to now having “a seat at the table that we hadn’t had previously” with the German manufacturer.
“What it means, in reality, is we have more influence and awareness early on in their development,” he explained.
“So we’re not handed a final product without having an input into what that final product looks like and having earlier awareness of where they’re headed.
“So the things we need to design around the power unit, we’re not starting that much later than the works team.”
Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren MCL60 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 03.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, Race Day.
When asked if securing that position was vital when it came to deciding whether to remain with Mercedes over arranging a switch to an alternative powertrain supplier, Brown said: “Yeah. We definitely had areas that we talked over with Andrea [Stella, Team Principal], the technical, and the systems teams about the areas they wanted to see as progress in the relationship.
“We were able to land on those, and I think Mercedes likes the [McLaren] racing team, our level of competitiveness because it’s going to make them better, too.”
Mercedes had long been the benchmark for power unit performance in F1’s hybrid era, claiming eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships between 2014 and 2021.
However, the emergence of Ferrari and Honda over the past year had led to rumours that McLaren was eyeing a potential change of power unit supply at the end of 2025.
Brown has confirmed that talks did occur with other manufacturers. This includes Red Bull, who will collaborate with American automotive company Ford on a 2026 engine.
“You would talk to them all to just understand, so we visited Red Bull,” Brown admitted. “I think it’d be hard to have a Ferrari in the back of a McLaren, but we did our due diligence.
“It was pretty clear to us we wanted to continue [with Mercedes].”
Pressed to describe what had transpired to prompt McLaren to remain with Mercedes, Brown expanded: “Performance has been great this year, reliability has been very strong, the relationship is really strong.
“And the new structure, with the agreement that we have, gets us much closer to them in the areas in which you would be in deficit as a customer.”
Keyword: McLaren to have ‘more influence’ with new Mercedes PU deal