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The new McLaren B team
Posted By:   |  10 Nov 2008   |  8:42 pm GMT  |  0 comments

The news that Force India has established a five year technical collaboration with McLaren and Mercedes comes as no surprise, indeed both sides have been talking about it for some months now. But it is quite a significant move for several reasons.

It marks the first time that Mercedes has supplied a second team with engines. They’ve considered it many times, but never actually gone through with it. Meanwhile Ferrari has had a very nice little business going for years supplying Toro Rosso, before that Red Bull, Spyker, Prost, Sauber. And that was in the good old days when they could charge $20 million per team per season.

McLaren looks like it has realised its dream of a B team, as Prodrive was going to be. The deal is attractive to McLaren for multiple reasons; as Mallya has a lot of other businesses to attend to so he will rely on advice from McLaren, which also appears to have put one of it’s own men into F.I. as CEO. It gives McLaren a commercial foot in the door in the vast new Indian market. It gives them a key political ally in the paddock and it is a revenue generator. It also gives them extra feedback from testing, especially of the new KERS system and the new slick tyres. This is significant because teams agreed to drastically limit testing next year, so McLaren will be able to learn vital extra information from Force India’s test programme, which will make them faster too. It also gives them somewhere to place drivers, in this case Paul di Resta and it shows good faith on their part in terms of being seen to help out an independent team – they are ‘doing their bit’ to ensure the health and future well-being of a small team, which is what Max Mosley has been demanding from the manufacturers. So plenty of upsides for McLaren.

The Red Bull Technologies set up has tested the boundaries of what is acceptable in terms of customer cars and as things stand, teams using customer cars will have to gravitate quickly to making their own, hence all the rumours about Toro Rosso being for sale. Force India will continue to make their own car, but they will get the drivertrain – engine and gearbox – from McLaren and Mercedes, as well as the KERS system. As McLaren has a budget of €70 million to develop KERS, compared to Williams budget of around €2.5 million, this is a great deal for Force India. The customer car situation is up for discussion at the moment in the ongoing negotiations between FOTA and the FIA. If customer cars were to become allowable then McLaren is in position to supply them with immediate effect.

The move will play well with Mallya’s audience in India, after all McLaren has just won the world championship with Lewis Hamilton – so by any standards this looks like a smart play by Mallya.

Will it move Force India up the grid? Well it’s got to help. They had to do something fast, because Toro Rosso has been getting away from them lately and Honda will take a big step forward next year, so Force India were at risk of being left behind. The departure of team principal Colin Kolles and technical boss Mike Gascoyne has been rumoured for some time. Gascoyne is a spiky character, but his track record of getting plenty of bang for a small team’s buck was well proven.

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  1. Gary Davidson says:

    Hi James,

    Mike Gascoyne obviously has an excellent CV just going by the job he did at Jordan, Renault and Toyota, he has also done okay at Force India considering, but it is noticeable that he doesn’t seem to be able to hold a position down for more than a few seasons before moving or being moved on. Is there any explantion for this, despite his very good record?

    On the deal for Force India I think it is a masterstroke by Mallya and a superb situation for McLaren.

  2. Duncan says:

    Hi James,

    It’s interesting you say McLaren are going to throw 70m euros at its KERS development, are you expecting them to the be front-runners with this?

    BMW have been seen as the leaders on this given they started development of the 2009 car early in the piece this season but are ‘only’ spending 2.5m euros.

    What will the 70m be spent on given this is so much more than BMW? Surely testing and development are key aspects too?

  3. speedmerchants says:

    JA writes: It was Williams who are spending €2.5 million, not BMW. See above.

  4. Duncan says:

    Sorry my mistake, always associating KERS with BMW. I’d still be interested in your opinion on how successful you think McLaren will be given their budget to spend and what part of the season you expect to see the KERS coming into force – presumably the earlier it’s in place the better the lap times?

    If BMW are the front-runners in this area as we are to believe surely McLaren and Ferrari can’t wait too long before they introduce their systems especially when Kubica was pretty close for much of the season with an inferior car and should be seen as a serious contender for 2009?

  5. Dave Highway says:

    That’s something that i’ve been wondering; whatever happened to Prodrive entering F1? I know they had to pull out of 2008 due to not being allowed to run a McLaren customer car, but didn’t they say they’d be back in 2009? Will they? Or have they given up?

  6. Duds says:

    Dave – Prodrive’s entry was contingent on being able to run a customer car, they’re not close to the set up required to design or build. When the FIA betrayed them on that they had very little choice.

    They’re not actually guaranteed an entry in 2009 anyway, they forfeited it when they didn’t turn up in 2008 and they have no useful plans to return while the customer car ban exists.

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