McLaren approach Mercedes on engine deal
McLaren has made an exploratory approach to Mercedes about engine supply in the wake of problems with partner Honda. McLaren and Honda’s relationship is at breaking point following a difficult winter testing.
McLaren has suffered during testing with the new engine was both unreliable and uncompetitive. McLaren is said to be evaluating options in the event the relationship with Honda cannot be made to work. McLaren and Mercedes were unavailable for comment.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said during last week’s final pre-season test that there was “no plan at all” to end the Honda relationship. If the team were to switch suppliers, they would need to find a way out of there multi-year Honda.
Sources say contact between the two was informal and brief and has not led to any resolution on either side. But the Mercedes board and motorsport boss Toto Wolff are said to be open-minded about the possibility of supplying their former partner.
If McLaren broke the Honda deal, it would see them lose millions of pounds and the would need to pay £14.8m to Mercedes. Honda pays half of McLaren’s driver-salary bill and a significant sponsorship contribution. Also, it would mean the owners Mumtalakat, Mansour Ojjech and deposed CEO Ron Dennis would need to keep the team going.
Mercedes have been the dominate engine since 2014 when McLaren finished fourth. But McLaren parted company, believing it was not possible to win in F1 unless a team was an official factory partner of a major engine manufacturer.
Hakkinen becomes McLaren’s ‘partner ambassador’
Two times world champion Mika Hakkinen has re-joined McLaren as the teams ‘partner ambassador’. The 48-year-old Finn competed in 130 grand prixs with the Woking-based squad between 1993 and 2001.
In his new job, he will work alongside executive director Zak Brown and the team’s marketing staff, dealing with partners and with the automotive side as well. Hakkinen said, “I’ve always considered McLaren to be my home in Formula 1, and I still have an enormous place in my heart for everyone in the team.”
“Of course, the past few years for McLaren haven’t been easy, but I’ve always believed that it’s only a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ McLaren will come good again – and I want to play my part in helping that happen.
“Returning to McLaren was an easy decision for me – I’ve never really lost contact, and I still know a lot of the hard-working men and women there from my eight-and-a-bit seasons with the team.”
Hakkinen says he is looking forward to working with Brown and they have already put in place the building blocks needed to help McLaren get back to the front.
Lowe joins Williams
Paddy Lowe the former technical boss of Mercedes has re-joined Williams as chief technical officer. The move has been on the cards and in January Mercedes placed the 54-year old on gardening leave.
Lowe is one of the best technical leaders in Formula One and his new role gives him responsibility for the engineering side of the entire Williams business. This includes the F1 team but also the Advanced Engineering commercial arm. Lowe started his new job today and has taken an undisclosed shareholding in the company.
Lowe guided Mercedes through three consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles from 2014-16.
But he was put on gardening leave by Mercedes this winter after a difference of opinion with F1 boss Toto Wolff about the future direction of the team. Lowe’s replacement is the former technical director of Ferrari James Allison.
Lowe said “I’ve always had a deep respect for Williams – my first team in Formula 1. It is a huge honour to return in this leadership position and to have the opportunity to become a shareholder.”
“I am extremely motivated to play my part in bringing success back to the team.” For Lowe, it’s something of a homecoming after entering the sport with Williams in 1987 winning the 1992 and 1993 championships before moving to McLaren where he spent twenty years, before joining Mercedes in 2013.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams said: “Having someone of Paddy’s calibre and engineering competence is not only a morale boost for everyone at Williams, but I know it will also significantly support our efforts to return this team back to the front of the grid”
Pushing to the Max
Red Bull could be the team this season were the internal battle could be the most talked about driver pairing this season and with them set to be in the top end of the field. Even thou they currently look to be behind Ferrari and Mercedes they would give up likely.
The team has one of the best line-ups with the smiling Australian assassin Daniel Ricciardo and the exciting Dutch teenager Max Verstappen. Both men have the speed and the ability which makes them both firm fan favourites. Speaking about the line-up, Christian Horner said “There is a buzz around him that is growing and growing.”
“You saw the people that turned out to see him at Spa last year….there is a national following behind him. But beyond that there is this raw talent. His potential is enormous and that is what is so exciting about him. He is so grounded.”
Ricciardo is rapidly becoming a fan favourite because not only his on-track fight but his attitude off track, cheeky charm and the ‘shoey’, in which has become a trademark celebration. His eyes will be on another ‘shoey’ next weekend at his home race.
Horner told The I paper “You suspect they both have more evolution and it will be interesting to see the battle between the two of them this year.”
Brawn plans for independent task force
Formula One’s managing director Ross Brawn is planning to set up an independent task force of independent experts to help shape a future vision for the world championship.
Brawn who joined FOM in January has begun to plot a long-term strategy to improve the spectacle of grand Prix racing. Self-interests of teams having influenced the rule changes over recent years, Brawn now intends to hire a small panel of well-recognised figures to deliver proposals that it believes will improve the show.
Brawn has been holding talks with people and Liberty Media held a meeting with teams to inform them of its next steps. Brawn told Autosport “We’ll have some experts, industry recognised people, working within FOM, who I think people will respect.”
“It won’t be a big team, just five or six people, but there will be enough capacity with my experience and knowledge to be able to create and get a proper reasoned argument for what we want to do and have an input into the process.” Brawn says there are always ‘strong sporting’ decisions that need to be considered.
Brawn added a central part of the panel’s remit would be to investigate how overtaking can be improved, with fears having. “It’s a complex problem.” he continued.
“We don’t want the cars to be slow, so we want the levels of grip that we have, but we want it in a way that doesn’t cause disruption to the car following.