F1 Winter Break
Is Honda really up for F1 return with McLaren?
McLaren Honda
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Nov 2011   |  8:59 pm GMT  |  156 comments

This weekend there have been rumours that McLaren and Honda may be looking at getting back together to chase the coveted number one plate they carried during the classic partnership which dominated F1 in the late 1980s. But is there really a business case for it as far as Honda are concerned?

The Honda era for the McLaren team was a real landmark, with 44 victories between 1988 and 1992 and Prost and Senna in their prime. Recently we’ve seen the revival of the Williams-Renault for 2012 onwards, so retro brands are in vogue.

German magazine Auto motor und sport suggested this week that a McLaren source had indicated that the team was keen to try to work up an alliance with Honda for the new generation 2014 engines.

It’s not hard to see why McLaren would want this. They are no longer a manufacturer backed team, since Mercedes bought its own team. They cannot afford to be left behind, especially when engines become a major performance differentiator again in 2014 with the new hybrid turbo formula.

The map is changing with these new rules in mind, powerbases being built, with Renault overtly promoting Red Bull as its factory team. McLaren likes to think of itself as being at least F1’s second most important team after Ferrari, with aspirations to overtake it somewhere in the future. But neither team can allow Red Bull to dominate the sport for long.

But would Honda want to come back to F1? The company quit the sport abruptly at the end of 2008. At the time they owned a team, which is far more expensive undertaking than being an engine supplier.

I made some enquiries in Japan over the last couple of days and it seems there are some significant hurdles to them coming back.

First the company’s share price has slumped by over 30% in the last 9 months and the mood I’m getting from sources close to the manufacturer is that there are bigger business issues to deal with before they start thinking about F1 again. The aftermath of the Japanese tsunami as well as the floods in Thailand are high priorities.

The there is the issue of exchange rates, which are making Japanese goods very expensive overseas at the moment and making it hard to be profitable. However the flip side is that with rates as they are at the moment any spend on European based activity would be 40% less expensive than when they were last doing F1 in 2008.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle would be one of confidence within the Japanese company; when Honda was last in F1 they were far from being the most competitive engine. Their unit was heavier and less powerful than the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault units.

The 2014 engine rules were put together with the idea of attracting new and former engine manufacturers to participate. Honda stayed across the discussions which culminated in a finalised agreement on specification in June of this year. Although small capacity hybrid turbo engines are more Honda’s cup of tea than the current V8s, there hasn’t been any clear sign that they are engaged in building prototypes at this time.

If it turns out that they are – and Japanese sources say not – then it could get very interesting.

Toyota has categorically ruled out a return any time soon.

The JA on F1 2011 limited edition collectors’ review of the year “Vettel steals the show” is now ready to pre-order. A large format 240 page paperback, it comes out on December 12th, costs £9-99 plus postage and can be sent anywhere in the world. All copies bought through this site are personally signed by James Allen.

To order your copy, click HERE

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Thanks for the great insight James!

Is this just a ploy by McLaren when they come to the negotiations table with Mercedes for 2014? If yes, it doesn't appear to be a very big threat... yet.

Also, if retro brands are in vogue, lets hope that we don't see a Mecachrome-badged anything back anytime soon!


No, because they are only customers of Mercedes and that won't change.


Only customers, but with some very good contract terms that they they inserted as a clause of agreeing to let mercedes to sell their shares and buy Brawn.


Honda powered McLaren? Yes, please!


2014 would be a fight between Ferrari and Mercedes....it looks like it


Er, why would you not mention McLaren in that list ?

Have you not been watching F1 for long enough to remember the last time we had Honda Turbos ?

Looking at the form book, only McLaren look likely to be challenging Red Bull over the next few years.


Will Ferrari be so strong with the new engines? Their road car market might not be as demanding of these new models as say Renault, Honda and (possibly) Mercedes. I can feel a renault resurgence as the dominent F1 engine coming on....


Ferrari's legend was built around engines. Enzo Ferrari once said, "Aerodynamics were for people who couldn't build engines"

Obviously out of touch with the 21st century but he was 90 when he died 23years ago, so his thinking was of a different generation.

Throughout the motorsport history of Ferrari, they have produced everything from 2.5litre 4 cylinder engines to 3litre 12 cylinders. All different sizes of capacity and turbo-charged engineering too.

Don't forget that from 1981 to 1988, Ferrari used a 1.5litre, V6 turbo engine.

In 1961, they used a 1.5 litre V6.

Ferrari, ultimately will design an engine for the F1 rules. Not because of how it impacts on their car business.

If they need any outside input, they do have access to the huge Fiat conglomerate, so I don't think they'll struggle.

As to Mercedes, they may have bought the Ilmor company but their F1 engine dept is merely naming rights.


Excellent reply, thank you.


Yeah because RBR will be so far ahead, they won't come close fighting them, lol.


McLaren are no longer a manufacturer backed team, but aren't they manufacturers (MP4-12C)themselves?

As for Red Bull, there are stories that Aabar is eying a piece of the team. If that happens, will Renault still call them their factory team?


Let's not forget the McLaren F1 - I don't get why after creating one of the most heralded supercars of the past few decades, they were never considered a manufacturer.


The F1 also used a bought in BMW engine.

I do think people are placing too big an emphasis on what manufacturers did in the past, just because a company made a good turbo engine in the 80's doesn't mean it a completely different turbo engine in 2014 would be as good.


They made a 100 or so, in the early 90's.

"Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale." Wikipedia


The F1 was again a partnership with a engine manufacturer (more than in the MP4-12C).

The 12C GT3 is a development program that shows how McLaren Group aims be recognized as a car manufacturer, as Ferrari, Mercedes or Renault.

And I don't bo surprised if McLaren takeover Ricardo in the next 2 years.


In terms of car manufacturing yes, but not a current works engine supplier to F1 of course.

The 12c engine was designed by McLaren in conjunction with Ricardo.


they are car manufactures, not F1 manufactures - they don't make the engine, only ferrari and mercedes can be called manufactures in F1 terms.

I did get the impression that after McLaren bought their shares back off Mercedes and are now producing road cars with their own power plants, that becoming a full F1 manufacture was the next step for 2014. Especially as the road cars are using turbo engines already... and basically copy the Ferrari business model, which seems to work pretty well.


I tottally agree. Bloomberg too: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-18/mclaren-aims-to-chase-down-ferrari-with-265-000-street-legal-model-cars.html

I believe that McLaren should bet on their partnership with Ricardo and do something risky.

I would be a more painful way, but 'no pain no gain'.


Would you have called Spyker a manufacture a few years ago, in the same breath as Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda, Renault...???

I think not. McLaren is not a lot different really.


How long before McLaren make na F1 engine James, or is this not on their agenda?


It would be a very brave - and expensive - undertaking. Pretty risky too!


They are now arguably a car manufacturer, but they don't have the capacity or experience that the real "manufacturers" have to develop engines. They haven't got the decades of experience that Mercedes, Ferarri or Renault have. And whilst they may now manufacture a road car, McLaren don't really make engines. The engine in the MP4-12C was developed by Ricardo (albeit in partnership with McLaren).


Hi Rob,

I'm going off memory here, so my details might be a bit out, but I believe the 12C's engine derived from a Nissan race engine from the 1990s that Ricardo build for McLaren.

The block's origins give McLaren a light yet strong dry sumped engine that suits road going purposes. McLaren note its ability to pull high revs for a road going turbo (8500), but it is difficult to judge how good a turbo engine really is as boost levels can do all sorts of things. The Porsche GT2 RS produces more power and torque from a smaller engine for example. And that's before we consider what the likes of 9ff do to these engines.

I suspect that if McLaren is to do its own engine, then the Ricardo partnership isn't the way to beat large car manufacturers and their resources. The Hart engine had one pole position and the Judd engine a few second places, but that is all I can recall in the last 30 years for the privateer engines.




Let's not forget how Mercedes came to have their name on one of the best engines in F1 - by buying a privateer engine builder. Hakkinen won two world championships when Mercedes was only a minority shareholder in Ilmor and the engine was "badge-engineered" as a Mercedes.


True, although Ilmor was in a different league to Hart or Judd. Having Roger Penske as a founding shareholder and backing from Chevrolet until Mercedes bought in meant that Ilmor was well resourced.

The wikipedia page suggests that while Illien and Morgan were the main guys, from the begining Mercedes was giving its technical input. Its knowledge from sports car racing would still have been relevant.




Martin, 9ff ?


9ff is a German "tuning" firm that will give you a 900 kW rear wheel drive 911 if you want something that will do 400 km/h without the running costs of a Veyron. The 9ff GT9 has its own wikipedia page, where it is claimed they sell in quite large numbers for a tuning company. Evo magazine features them a fair bit.


I think he means ruf.

Jesper Mathias Nielsen

The M838T engine in the MP4-12c is admitteldy a McLaren first, but it's developed in cooperation with Ricardo PLC. It's based on an old Nissan engine if memory serves.

As engine partners go, VW through either Volkswagen or Lambo would could be an option. However, Lambos are notoriously recognized for their big engines, not small turbo charged ones. In the end it will depend on how VW go forward in other series such as their Audi Le Mans program.


I didn't want to be late to the show, but about 5 years back the whole Audi Le Mans strategy really solidified in my mind as one of the soundest motor racing strategies there is. When I think of the first time I heard that Diesel Audi go by at full throttle - I still get chills. They are so ahead of the game and strategy - even FIA can't keep up.

VW/Audi doesn't need F1. F1 needs them. And as much as they enjoy the rumour here or there - they are definately not coming into F1. Even with the new engine.

My money is on the fact that no manufacturers will come into F1 at this engine formula switch. If anything some may brand the PURE engine and expense the thing as a marketing effort. But I don't think anyone else is developing a new F1 engine. It's a waste of money really.

Between Renault and Mercedes there are very few respectible teams left on the grid next few years. Ferrari is also there supplying 3 teams.

As for Honda - they were kings of small cars. Now everyone Chevrolet included has a decent small car attacking their product. They have bigger problems to fry, and beside the ones mentioned by James, their biggest one is how to make Civic unique again. Civic is nice, but not king of the playground anymore.


Jesper Mathias Nielsen

I tell you, these American guys don't seem so willing to burn their money on F1 anymore. I think GM is interested in open wheel racing again, but if they were to look at F1 they would do it with PURE through branding. I just don't think they would invest in their own engine development without desire to be there for 5 years or more, and I don't think they have that desire. With PURE they come and go as they please on short term, small investment. That is if they feel F1 suits them - which I don't think it does. Also remember, GM is owned by the US Government in the middle of austerity and debt reduction. GM Touring Car program is quite successful too - promoting real product in WTCC and BTCC.

U.S. is car crazy, but these execs and rich guys would rather go to auction and blow 12M on some rare Ferrari they will get to look at every day and drive along other 10 such Ferraris, than give Bernie even 1M for the pleasure of racing in F1. Look how little US corporate machine spends in F1. US F1 team was a no go after they realized they would need to dump perfectly good cash into the fire pit for years just to be on the grid. No need to look at USF1 Team - look at Virgin - full of resources and products to promote - is out of F1 in a blink to go to space instead! HRT - I don't recall seeing them on the F1 feed at all, oh yes I do, when they crash. I wonder how much good money this fun F1 experience has cost HRT - could have had a few of those rare Ferraris. Texas looks to be a no-go after people are realizing that this will be quite expensive and perhaps not so sensible. Time to take down those nice $3000 billboards and call back Jim Bob and his bulldozer daily 8hr routine - which was the apparent contruction taking place we are to believe. Even NJ - which most think is a done deal - I won't believe it until I'm at the gate punching my ticket. As if New York needs the publicity!

With all the Bernie/CVC/Bribe/Fraud Office/Taxes mess not to mention Concorde - F1 could very soon be in a serious state of shock, and Americans have a tendency to quickly move away from "messy" things. Not like NJ is a huge circuit project - some bariers, stands - it's easy to cancel that with short notice. You will remember AAA views on Max Mosley situation - largest automotive association in the world - completely overruled by bunch of associations from countries where camels and donkeys outnumber cars for transportation needs - all to keep Max in power. That to me said it all about what FIA and F1 for that matter - due to Max's close association with F1 - think about America. .

Just like I said Audi doesn't need F1, F1 needs Audi, well, America doesn't need F1, F1 needs America. But Bernie will only let F1 need America if America pays for the pleasure. And as I already said, there aren't that many Americans ready to burn perfectly good cash on F1. If hosting a race made a good business case, American states would be fighting for a race and there would be five events here. As it stands, they are happily closing doors into F1's face because they know what a NASCAR race with 200K attendence costs to host vs. F1 race.

I'm trying to stay optimistic, but I'm affraid that I am very reserved about even the one F1 event taking place on US soil by 2013. Ever hear about the bride not showing up at church? She agreed to get married - yet she's not here. That does happen and is a very real possibility in the case of NJ race as well.

WOW, I was just going to say that GM likely won't build an F1 engine and ended up going on a full length rant about F1 and America. Mondays - dangerous days!


You're right about Audi not coming to F1. But the reason is, with their record of dominance in Le Mans why tarnish that, by being just another engine in F1. Audi is good, but on an F1 level they don't have any more design chops than any of the current engine suppliers. They have turbo experience but none over 8500 rpm or so. They wouldn't stand out in F1 like they have at Le Mans , so why do it?

Jesper Mathias Nielsen

Agree completely.

With the efforts being made in the US, I could see GM somehow becoming interested. Their Corvette teams has been struggling to keep up with Ferraris in endurance racing lately... However, it's remains very possible other racing series simply offer a better business opportunity.


What I mean is few respectible teams to be customers for an engine.

And since McLaren makes their own cars this engine issue is a really big one for them. I'm not sure I'm excited about buying a car from them for large sums when the key component of it is not McLaren at all. They really do need to build an engine if they want to be unique. I think they may talk to PURE also - which is a more realistic solution.


Technically yes, but the M838T is their first engine and they didn't build it alone. Compared to Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes a massive difference.


Just can not see it happening!


That was my first thought too, and then I remembered that this is exactly what I said when the rumours about Schu returning to F1 started - almost exactly 2 years ago!


It can, and perhaps will.

One of my previous employers is a direct raw material supplier to Honda USA, so I know a little bit about how the company works. What’s important is not Honda’s situation today, but where they see their position in the global marketplace in the future, and how the move would reflect on the image they want to project. A small hybrid engine is going to be quite attractive to many in the company, unlike the thirsty V8s they walked away from in 2008.

Moreover, though expensive, the move could improve their image as a “green” manufacturer and increase awareness of their street hybrids, thus helping them recover. Since their arch-rival Toyota is definitely out, this move could be used to gain advantage. Honda desperately wants to kick the Prius off its throne in the hybrid market.

I give this one a 75/25 chance.


One more point that I forgot to mention: Honda has not forgotten its past successes with McLaren, and knows that F1 fans are loyal and would cheer their return in this capacity. Just read the comments here!!

Maybe I’ll up that to 80/20!


No one, here in Brazil, even us, A.Senna fans, know that B. Senna, despite his talent, isn't like his uncle.

I believe that McLaren should look to another Brazillian, Felipe Nasr.


What chance Senna driving a McLaren-Honda in 2014?


James, just to emphasise on one point for your European/UK readers, Honda produces the Jazz and Civic sedans in Thailand. (Mazda and Ford also produce the 2 and Fiesta there).


What about VW group entering any news there, as they have launched a WRC team?


With VW entering into the WRC, and looking very serious about it too, and with Audi spending big in LMP's and DTM, plus Porsche are returning to Le Mans in 2014 for the new rules and rumours of a Bently return there as well, I think the whole VW-Audi group is very busy motorsport wise and really wont have the money to spare for something like F1.


They had a good look at the 2014 engine plans and were part of the discussions


Yes, but didn't they get heavily criticised by many F1 companies because of this and then they decided against entering F! after the FIA accepted their views?


Yes, wasn't there a sniff of Porshe?


Mmmmmmm! Honda turbo back in F1 yes please.


Bar their F1 cars Honda aren't exactly known for their turbo expertise (other than diesels).

E.g. no Type R model has being turbo'd (Honda previously said they are against the idea), no NSX was turbo'd, not even the JGTC version.

It'll be intersting to see how they get on against people like Renault who have vast experience of forced induction engines.

It's also worth noting that the Honda N/A engines in F1 (V10's then V8's) were never the creme of the crop!


Thier V10s in 2004 and 2005 were one of the most powerful in the field. Even the V8 for 2006 was considered one of the top engines until the engine freeze. There they did not play thier cards right or smart, and this led to thier downfall.


Actually their NS-X was turbo-charged for a few seasons in JGTC as they had no choice because of the Toyboat and Nissuck whining to the rule makers about the NS-X. Thus why the NS-X GT was built in a minute number of just 5 and sold within minutes of being announced even at the extraordinary cost. They went back to NA power afterwards and have stayed that route. Also their LeMans NS-X was turbo-powered, but unfortunately had mechanical issues on the very first lap if I remember correctly. You seem to also forget their Indy dominance in the US when using turbo power.

Never creme of the crop?!?! Really you believe this, so winning championships in '89, '90 and '91 with NA power means what? Also in the latter years they actually stuck to the rules about not developing further, whereas the other makers kept tinkering and the FIA turned a blind eye. Just look back to the FIA's handling of the fuel tank, they were not the only team to be using this fuel tank system, yet only the Honda powered team was given a 2 race ban.


One doubt, the Civics Hatch that are running in BTCC aren't turbo powereds?


This is what I was thinking


Mclaren should now start considering building their own engine units. i think they have the technical ability to do it, especially now that they are in the road car business, it makes even more sense as they can use F1 as R&D for their road car engines like Ferrari do.

Maybe cost of setting up an engine department are the limiting factor??


i heard a rummor 2 tears ago,that mclaren could build an F1 engine after there new factory is ready.Since then i never didnt heard anything,but im currios,are there new rummors that suggest that they will?

Nclare -Haonda,back togheter?Althought a nice memory it keeps coming to my mind that Jenson Button,when drove for the first time the Brawn car with the Mercedes engine,he said"Thats a winner car"!I wonder if something has change in the meanwhile with the Homda engines!


In my opinion, before McLaren can target an in-house engine they need to achieve the following, Firstly MP4-12c sales would need to be very strong or strong enough, and they would need to expand their portfolio beyond just the MP4-12c, would help justify a lot of the required R&D.


Take a look at this: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-18/mclaren-aims-to-chase-down-ferrari-with-265-000-street-legal-model-cars.html

The pre-sales of 12C are very good (despite the crisis) and the expansion of the portfolio is in the program.


I was also thinking of the same, as the name of Mclaren Honda sounds a bit odd. Mclaren should start using their vast expertise to build a new engine unit, and probably even supply to some other teams!!!!.


Does their road car really use an entirely Mclaren built engine though? I thout I head here that it's not essentially their own engine in relaity... Or did I dream it.


It was certainly help with prestige if they are successful. The road car uses a fair bit of assistance from Ricardo, which is a household name if you love the Bugatti Veyron gearbox (easily the best bit of engineering in the car in my opinion, not having driven one... the rest is four Audi S3s).

The problem McLaren may have is that it has no record at this level with engines - turbo road car engines are easy to get bit power, and the journalists are never going to compare fuel consumption levels for these cars, especially when the turbo has an intrinsic advantage on the official tests - and so who would be a customer to help McLaren spread its costs. A wiser strategy might be to wait a few years until the technology stabilises and then poach staff from the other manufacturers.




“Mclaren should now start considering building their own engine units. i think they have the technical ability to do it, especially now that they are in the road car business”

No way. Their only engine (the M838T) was built with engineering help from Ricardo and Menard. Remember, McLaren’s goal is to WIN, not merely to compete. They have no chance of beating Ferrari or Red Bull with their own engine. Their first engine may not even be as good as PURE’s since they’d be starting really late in the game. Besides, the capital required to launch a new F1 engine division would be poorly spent. Their best bet is to hook up with Honda, and if not, then somehow find a way to press on with Mercedes, who definitely doesn’t want to see a McLaren ahead of their factory car! McLaren almost has to go with Honda.


I disagree, by this point of view, new enterprises wouldn't play against old ones...Ferrari never did a 1.6 turbo engine, as Mclaren.

McLaren MP4-12C is better than F-458, and Ferrai had a superior know-how.


Yes its easy... as long as you happen to have a billion dollars lying around.


How do you become a multi-millionaire by building F1 engines?

Easy... start as a multi-billionaire 😉

(With all apologies, etc.)



So, this is a version of become millionaire by Vingin owner...but is pure truth.


That's what I am wondering. Is being or becoming an engine manufacturer or supplier in F1 an automatic money pit? And why Honda? If the engines are going to be so different in 2014 from anything Honda last did in 2008, couldn't any fair-sized engine manufacturer get up to speed as far as building an F1 engine or do they have to have a race division in place? Hyundai? Nissan? Suzuki? (I have no idea what I am talking about so someone enlighten me):)


Small point, but isn't Nissan pretty much Renault?


Nissan could pretty much be John Deere or Briggs & Stratton for all I know. 😉


1) I wonder what Jenson would think of Honda returning.

Ron Dennis may have good memories, but I'm certain Jenson has a number of poor ones.

2) The only time that Honda dominated in F1 was between 1986 to 1991. Renault became the standard bearer after that.

I believe Honda, at the time, was probably more focused than its rivals, but more than that, you only need to look at the driver talent that drove Honda's cars during those years. Mansell, Piquet, Prost, and Senna.

Yes I know Prost won the championship in 1986, but it was against the run of play.

Ferrari lost Enzo in 1988 and practically self-imploded till Montezemolo took control of the team in 1992. So who else was competition for Williams and Mclaren during those years?

Honda withdrew at the end of 1992 when Renault raised the bar. Their subsequent returns have been very poor when compared to their history.

Also, if the new engines in 2014 are restricted like the current design freeze, what incentive is there for Honda to return, they always used F1 as an enviroment to test their best engineers before they returned to the factory.


You could speculate on who had an edge in engine electronics at that stage too. If you go into the detail on the engines, there seemed to be a lot of areas that could have been optimised a lot further than they were. I suspect a lot of this was due to the fuel being such a dominant driver for performance that not much else could compete in $ invested / kW found terms.

If you look at MotoGP, when the Ducatis came in a few years into the 4-stroke era, they immediately overtook the Hondas as the most powerful engines. Not always great bikes, and power is less exploitable on a bike, but still significant. So yes, I think your argument has a solid base to it.




Re: your last paragraph - hopefully Honda can see beyond that and return. They would add great validity to F1, considering their heritage in the sport. They just need to design a lighter, better engine…


I really hope they come back. The more engine suppliers the better.

Any word on Craig Pollocks PURE engines?


As far as confidence goes the 2006 V8 wasnt particularly great but the previous years V10 was spectacularly powerful and regarded as the best of the bunch that year, and if memory serves correctly they were one of the most voiciferous manufacturers against the V8's. There return wouldnt guarante time line performance but it would be nice to see them back in the sport.


I thought BMW ruled the end of the V10 era


No, by the end of 05 it was Mercedes and Honda fighting it out to be the first to reach 1000bhp. I dont think either got there but both were reported to be over 950bhp and clear of Ferrari, BMW and Toyota. God I miss those V10's.


one of of takuma satos suzuka specials, back when honda was allowed to turn up the revs and bring special engines for each driver, was 965bhp. now i don't know if that was its final iteration of the SS but it sounded awesome. made for spectacular fireballs at the end of races too.


I thought so too, though I hear alot about the Honda V10 being the loudest.


It is a chance to come back into the sport, but for me, these engine rules suit Renault down to the ground with perhaps Mercedes second best placed to get running straight away. Renault already have huge amounts of turbo based cars, and Mercedes are fans of supercharging, and both have experience in what is required, but Honda are more fans of clever cam solutions...


Mercedes road-car experience with supercharging isn't worth a whole lot, because it's not a particularly efficient system (which is why they're already giving up on it) and besides, non-exhaust superchargers wouldn't be used in F1 anyway.

Renault's case is more interesting. They do indeed like small, efficient turbo engines, but to make the technology work in 2014, they will also need a good, reliable KERS system... and the Renault-powered RBR hasn't really got the hang of that one yet... but who knows what will happen in the next 2-3 years.

Honda rode the variable-valve-timing wave ever since they wrote the book on that technology — they patented it then, to make sure that others couldn't start playing catch-up for a decade, and it worked. Off the top of my head I can't think of a turbo-charged Honda road car, and I don't know how much any experience in hybrid technology (read: KERS) will help them, but I wouldn't count the Japanese out of a technology race, which is what this is.


The Renault KERS is pretty reliable. You need to look at the Renault team for correct implementation of it, rather than RBR that have obviously tinkered with it.


Unless I'm very much mistaken, RBR is not using Renault's KERS at all, it's their own system, because Newey wanted as compact a KERS unit as possible...

...so your point is still valid. Actually, since RBR's KERS problems seem to be mostly about overheating due to the tight packaging, the system should be OK when it is brought to the fore — which you'd expect it to be, when it will be used so much more.


Renault have 1.5 turbo diesels and up,more in the size range was more my point...lol


It's not the type of system experience I regard as useful, it's the fact they already have vast experience of forced induction that I feel gives them the edge. True, Ferrari also have experience of forced induction, but they can seem a bit conservative sometimes. Interesting times ahead though...


I'd say research from the F40 would be much closer to relevant than any of Mercedes 5.5 litre 6000 RPM SUPERcharged V8s. Though Merc does have a twin turbo v12 in the sl65 AMG. Just lop it in half and throw in the W05.


Having just seen the McLaren 12c on BBC2 I do wonder if this isn't the chance for a McLaren badged engine. If they really want to take on Ferrari on and off track and be seen as a manufacturer.


I did wonder that too, although I expect that there is a major difference between making a supercar engine that might spend much of it's life at 30/70mph plus the occasional track day, compared to one that has to go flat out for over a thousand laps.

Perhaps that is their eventual aim and why they developed their own engine for a road car. However for now I would expect them to first recoup the costs of developing the MP4-12C and let Mercedes cover the R&D costs for the F1 engine!


IMO McLaren should steer clear of directly pitting themselves against Ferrari, they should let motor-journalists, fans and customers make their own comparisons. I can see Ferrari replacing 458 way before McLaren replace MP4-12c.


Its a very good way to spend a huge amount of money developing an F1 engine.

McLaren have recently hired an ex F1 engine guru (whos name escapes me at the moment).


Read my reply to post no. 9 above. I think the answer is no way.


I'm afraid the shine has really gone off the Honda name since they withdrew from the sporty and sporting scene ; if they want to get their share price back up they had better do something to restore their reputation

F1 would probably be the most cost effective way of doing that ..they already have big investments in the UK so , bearing in mind the value of the yen , that would be a good place to have a facility , if not for design , at least for production


Japanese corporate types in F1 are not keen on relinquishing the initiative to a far flung UK centre to run their F1 operations. We have seen this all before. But, given this is just engines, maybe it might work a bit more efficiently.


Is the real story that McLaren are looking for a new engine supplier?


Well, I don't think Mercedes will want a competitor as strong as McLaren to use their engines. Else, in case McLaren comes out on top, Merc will be left wandering what was the point in having their own team. And McLaren will not accept tuned down engines.

Doing their own McLaren thing will be hugely expensive. Unlike Ferrari, they must start F1 engine building from scratch, and it's not going to be cheap (and won't produce results instantly). Especially under RRA.

So, what's left for them? Unknown upstarts like that Craig Pollock company - or some established manufacturer. Just 2 are available, I think: VW or Honda, and now it seems they are sounding Honda out.

It will be very interesting to see what VW will be doing, perhaps with their Porsche brand. Going with Sauber (as some have suggested) may not be the shortest way to podiums and championships. But with McLaren ... hmmm 🙂


I bet Honda are still kicking themselves for selling the team to Ross Brawn in 2009! Maybe they just want a comeback to claim the Constructors Championship they could have had in 2009!


Whilst the chassis pushed the spirit of the rules in 2009, I think Brawn's luckiest break was Honda withdrawing from F1.

He was saddled with a reliable, powerful Mercedes engine, instead of the woeful, underpowered, unreliable unit designed by Honda.


Yet the new powerplant with KERS was actually more intune with the chassis and would have been even more dominant. The Mercedes' was shoe-horned into the chassis and it wasn't the powerplant that won the championship for the Honda car, I hate to say Brawn, because he bought the team for a measily £ and then turned around and sold it for how many to Mercedes? What a sham.


Can McLaren source an engine from Renault, Mercedes or Cosworth but badge it as their own as they did with the Tag? I would presume yes, but that there is a cost increase due to the lack of marketing value. On the flipside of that, if McLaren were to go to Renault, would they be able to negotiate a much cheaper rate on the basis they could win the Constructors Championship, whereas Team Lotus or Williams are only ever going to run around at the back (unfortunately).

James, off topic, but I hope of interest…I was reading about the death of the England all-rounder Basil D’Oliveira, and how his actions impacted on apartheid. Could you do a post about F1′s involvement in the 1980′s, any negative or positive views on it? I know James Hunt had some thoughts on the subject


"if McLaren were to go to Renault, would they be able to negotiate a much cheaper rate on the basis they could win the Constructors Championship, whereas Team Lotus or Williams are only ever going to run around at the back (unfortunately)"

Trouble is, Renault already have a team on board who have managed to win the constructors for the past two years running...


Honda should be ahead of the game - as they currently supply Indy Cars with V6 Turbos.

Slightly different in spec to the new F1 regs - but not that far apart.


I think it was Harold Macmillan who said in the 1950s he wanted to be in the common market. DeGaulle said "Non" and Mac said he rather be out anyway. Later when he said he wanted to be in , one MP described his policy as one of "Coitus interuptus".

I've got a long memory , I'll never buy a Honda because I remember Honda pulling engines out of Williams, leaving them high and dry (Remember Mansell driving a Williams-Judd), then pulling out of the sport and leaving Mclaren high and dry (remember McLaren with a customer Ford Engine and the dreadful Peugeot one ?)

But.. Who can Mclaren get engines from?

Ferrari ? Not likely.

Renault ? It seems they have 4 teams for 2014. Would they want to have Red-Bull and Mclaren

Someone in woking must have the job of saying "What if the Mercedes relationship ended". Right now the only engine available would be Cosworth. So if you were that person would you take soundings at ex-manufacturers Honda, BMW, Ford, Toyota, (heck even Peugeot/Citroen)? Absolutely you would you'd look at new entrants (VW/Audi) and McLaren is now making engines for their road car so you'd even ask the question if they could make their own F1 motor. And you might want Mercedes to know you have plans B,C and D, even if plan A is stick with Mercedes.


Ferrari/ Mclaren, it's taken a shot of whiskey and an inhaler to stop my coughing and laughter.


Constructors table:

Red Bull-Renault



So is that a McLaren or is that a Ferrari? LOL

If that's the case and McLaren wins anything, Ferrari will forever be taking the mickey saying they won with Ferrari power.


Confused - I thought McLaren planned to manufacture their own engines in the near future.


Cost for developing road car engines and F1 engines are different.


As other posters have mentioned, 2014 might be the right time for McLaren to start building their own engines. It seems to fit in with the direction the team apparently wants to go in, but they would have to start building up their facilities and expertise as of now, surely?

Any thoughts on McLaren building their own, James?


I really do think that a return to Formula 1 as engine manufacturer would be the best that Honda could do for their reputation and I think it could be a fine opportunity to boost sales. Honda are very good at making engines and having the top engine has become less important for today's Formula 1. So they just need to build a "competitive" engine and supply a very good team with it for free. Chances for messing up are quite small. Personally I never understood Honda's desire to be Formula 1 car constructor. They had much to lose and nothing to gain and in fact all they did was to damage their reputation with a competitive engine in a ridiculous car with an utterly stupid marketing campaign, not sporting any sponsor logos before bailing out in the worst possible moment in Formula 1 history. So if there is anything Honda can do about it then it's doing what they can do best: Build a proper engine, supply it to a top team and get a huge sticker on the car in return.


The Porsche unit was the closest McLaren had to an in-house design, and McLaren TAG always had a nice ring to it...


I think a customer engined Mclaren would do far better than a fresh re-entering company engine. For the very reason that Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault all must have already started researching and developing the 2014 spec engines and the other components such as gearboxes etc have also come a long way, such is the pace of development in F1.

Mclaren building their own engines would catastrophic for the teams' balance sheet, at one end we speak of the company has allocated substantial resources in their road car project and on the other a resource diversion of capital in magnitude required for setting up an engine unit would not make economic sense.

So Mclaren must be tactful. F1 walks into the unknown from 2014 with Turbo Hybrids, every one relearns F1 thenceforth, in that environment its better to make Mercedes iron out the initial teething issues, this will enable continuity and eliminates fresh re-starts of activities. Mclaren has the best driver combination on the grid, Mclaren build the best or second best chassis and aero packaged cars, they always have rapid car development program.

So, they should stick to what they do best and not be experimentally adventurous, especially in 2014.



Weren't there rumours of McLaren looking to buy the defunct BMW engine manufacturing unit and designing/manufacturing their own engines at the end of this current Mercedes contract?



I did hear some rumours on that, yes, but wasn't there a denial?


Who could build an engine for Mclaren to put their name on. Maybe back to the old TAG days. Could Porsche re enter???

Anythings possible.


Honda behaved very honourably towards its employees when it pulled out in 2008 – they did everything they could, within the financial reason of the time, to ensure they team family stayed together – much more so than BMW when they quit. IF they do come back into F1, I’m sure they will be welcomed by fans and fellow competitors alike.


Off topic James - back in July we had the chance to ask John Surtees a question - were they ever answered?


In my opinion, some of the posts comparing F1 engines to a manufacturer's range of econo engines and then drawing conclusions as to their competitiveness is silly. You need specialists who know how to build racing engines, not passenger car ones. They are totally different purposes.

I don't see why MacLaren would chose Honda unless it was purely for the money. Their recent track record is poor (irrespective of past glories) and they do not have any knowledge base, having gotten rid of their engine team. MacLaren are a front running team and therefore can't risk running an unproven product. Renault and Mercedes have the paddock largely sown up with customer deals and therefore are most likely to produce a reliable cost effective unit. Given RBR are Renault's favoured client, MacLaren could not risk choosing them, which leaves Mercedes.

Aerodynamics, not engines, is where performance is won or lost. Luca said it himself recently and it won't change any time soon.


"Aerodynamics, not engines, is where performance is won or lost. Luca said it himself recently and it won’t change any time soon." +1

Very true.

I recall 2010 in Turkey where a McLaren with F-duct was side-by-side against a Mercedes without it. Both have the same power plants, yet the McLaren drew was evidently faster.


I agree with the person who said the real story was McLaren might be looking for an engine suppler:-) but I think it is going to be very hard for either Honda or Toyota to come back to F1. Would Mercedes want to lose McLaren as a customer I wonder


"badge it as their own as they did with the Tag"..

Badge, my bum!

Porsche supplied the rock solid block and bottom end, it was TAG that made the difference in the partnership.


I can't see it happening. It is more likely that Porsche or BMW will return to the scene.

The TAG McLaren Porsche era with Lauda & Prost is legendary as well. The only problem I see is the conflict of interest between Porsche and McLaren. Both produce sportscars ...

So, Mclaren has got to up their game and cocreate their own engine with ... Honda?! I believe this is going to be more likely than Honda returning to F1.


A McLaren-Honda with the silver color turning into white, would be simply beautiful. 🙂

F12010 to kill time until March

James, wouldnt it make more sence for Mclaren to partner up with BMW? The "low" cost of suppling engines to several teams as Renault do it makes sence, and they clearly had the best engine for the majority of their last spell in F1. They are probably throwing away money developing modern engines anyway, so a return to F1 as a enginesupplier only would be good for business.


Not if BMW isn't interested in F1!!

You can't make manufacturers compete..


With McLaren now a fully fledged road-car manufacturer I thought I read some time back that the plan was for them to build their own F1 engines? This would surely be necessary if they are to rival Ferrari for status?

Then again Red Bull's back-to-basics approach has left the grandees looking a bit leaden-footed...


I was hoping that Ron would build his own engine so that McLaren would be on equal terms with Ferrari, not just "garagists" as Mr Ferrari used to call the British Cosworth powered teams.

Had the existing engine formula been maintained I guess that was a possibility but I can't see a McLaren road car powered by a 1600cc V6 anytime soon!

Honda would be THE natural choice and it's difficult to see another manufacturer that would be willing and able to come into F1 and produce an all-new engine for the team.


Whilst I'd like to see Honda come back into the sport I don't see them linking up with McLaren, more likely a mid pack team and not for several more years until after the new regulations have settled.

I think more likely would be for a VAG sourced engine, most likely badged as Audi or Porsche. The new regulations would fit in well with the group's line ups and ambitions whereas in the past the business case couldn't really be made. If they do move into F1 I don't see them linking with anyone other than a top team. At this point the only option would be McLaren as all the other teams are de facto manufacturer teams - RedBull Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes.

I wouldn't think it out of the question that McL would start building their own engines, but I believe that it would take a longer build up and a more stable set of regulations to make it a safe bet. Also, it would mean a loss in money as they would have nobody else funding the engine, would be a major sponsor down and would all be taking place as they are launching new road cars in expensive manners.


I don't think we will see a Porsche or Audi badged engine in a Mclaren, after all, both marques are going to be direct rivals to McLaren when they produce their second road car - strongly expected to be a 911/R8 competitor.

I had my name down on the waiting list for the MP4 12C but sadly the price was more than I could afford or would be prepared to pay for a car.

In a telephone conversation I was assured that a 911 competitor would follow - hopefully I'm near the top of that waiting list !

Without Honda, or an ongoing deal with Mercedes, it seems likely that McLaren will have little choice other than to work with Recardo and design their own engine.


Honda powered McLaren would be good providing it can be at least as good (power and reliability)as the best. I don't think McLaren would currently have the capacity to design and manufacture an F1 engine as volumes of the MP4 12C ramp up, and anyway I expect the two activities are entirely seperate. Also F1 engine design is a very specialised area to step into without previous experience, and knowhow does have to be built up. I do wonder if Ricardo could have some involvement as they have with the 12C, but obviously if Honda could surmount their present difficulties it potentially may be a partnership made in heaven for McLaren.


Hi James,

Since Mercedes came back into the sport with a works team it's been clear that the McLaren partnership would come to an end eventually.

After Dennis left the team the rumours have tended towards McLaren building their own engines for 2013 (now 2014) and that Ron wants to see McLaren become the English Ferrari etc.

Do you see this as a realistic option, and if not, are there any other manufacturers in the picture?


James, do i get a cookie for thinking loud about such a possibility in the 'Cost of Competing in F1' thread a week ago ? This is what i said and i quote : "If i were Whitmarsh, i would be sending “feelers” to Honda by now. Honda loves engine challenges and have never been really good making chassis ( just follow the HRC history esp in MotoGp). Mclaren-Honda have historic relationship which is almost legendary. If Mercedes are to back their own works team, Mclaren will really be out their on their own and will need a new partner.Honda could be the perfect fit."

Jee! I should take making prophecies as a full-time vocation!


That's a great idea, I'd be fascinated to know more about F1 and apartheid. It briefly came up recently in relation F1's lamentably apolitical approach to dealing with Bahrain, but I'd be very interested to hear about what drivers, team owners etc thought back then.


I don't know why Mclaren don't set up there own engine division, There must but lots of engine guru's from BMW,Toyota,Honda days. They could then also make there own production car engines. That would make them the only British Car Manufacture in UK would it not?


Hello James,

It's very interesting news and a few questions have come in my head and perhaps it would be interesting to hear your opinion:

1. I would like to highlight that though Mclaren and Honda had great success together, that was 20 years ago! On top of that, like you have said in your article, in Honda's most recent involvement in F1, 3 other engine suppliers have superior engines. How would this give confidence to Mclaren?

2. With Mclaren now going into the business of road cars with their 1st product being the MP4-12C, has Mclaren looked into the idea of producing their own engines? With KERS and hybrid technology being the thing for the future, wouldn't Mclaren be able to use their future experience in F1 engines and apply to their road car business?

3. This could be a naive question. How much know-how has Mclaren got from Mercedes from the last 3 years with regards to KERS technology? Would Mclaren's future engine supplier benefit from Mclaren's acquired know-how (if they have any)?

4. In relation to question 2, by going straight into producing their own F1 engines from 2014, is it a step too far for Mclaren and hence they are looking for a engine supplier now to supply them the hybrid turbo engines for a period of time before they start manufacturing their own engines?


H'mmmm, Phil R even if Macca wanted to I wonder if RBR have the power (clause) to veto a Macca/Renault alliance. Would make Horner & Newey smile so much they'd split their lips if that was he case. Poetic justice?


Horner has done nothing but moan about the power unit, so would probably love to swap the Renault for a Merc.


Yeah Scott but 2014 wipes the slate clean & it all starts again. How many gee gee's a v8 has now is irrelevant.


I would love to see Porsche/Audi/VW take a crack at being an engine supplier. AT the moment, Audi are very much involved with small powerful turbos and BMW are in the midst of moving in that direction with its current production lines being the last of the normally aspirated motors.


Here's a crazy thought. McLaren is one of the few teams with the strength in depth to diversify and assume a demanding development and manufacturing initiative; surely McLaren is the one team that doesn't need a manufacturer just someone with deep pockets? So what about a fully in-house built McLaren Samsung for 2014?


Or a McLaren-Buffet, McLaren-Slim, McLaren-Batista, McLaren-Gates...rsrsrs good insight.


I have always preferred the idea of manufacturers supplying engines while leaving the chassis and the racing to specialist teams, so would welcome another brand's engine in the back of a McLaren, especially one with the history of Honda. From what I read, the company needs some pep right now and F1 could be very affordable if the work was undertaken in Europe.

McLaren's presence in the supercar and imminently sportscar markets would seem to limit its options.

Sadly, VW-Audi, which has been suggested as an alternative, probably does not need F1 as it has turbos, diesels and big bangers all covered already via its rally, Le Mans and DTM programmes.


Why people think McLaren want to make their own engines?

I've read so many posts on this topic saying:

'Now McLaren are a road car manufacturer, it make sense to build their own F1 engines.'

This is mental.

McLaren are building road cars to diversify away from F1, why would they throw more money into F1, especially at a time when they are gambling on an £800 Million investment in the production of road cars.


Why do people think McLaren want to make their own engines?

I've read so many posts on this topic saying:

'Now McLaren are a road car manufacturer, it make sense to build their own F1 engines.'

This is mental.

McLaren are building road cars to diversify away from F1, why would they throw more money into F1, especially at a time when they are gambling on an £800 Million investment in the production of road cars.


Honda would be good...

Porsche would be better! What happened to the VAG/Porsche rumblings, James?


Boy, this topic sure sparks a lot of commentary.

At any rate, how about the return of Mugen-Honda as being a more likely candidate?


I would wager that Honda wants back into F1 dearly. It just isn't financially feasible at the moment for them.


Hello James,

I apologise that this is off topic but it was announced that after the MP4-12C, Mclaren's next road car would be called the MP4-27.

I think almost all of us would expect Mclaren's 2012 F1 car would be called the MP4-27. With this announcement what would be the name of Mclaren's 2012 F1 car? Are we expecting some major development in the Mclaren setup?


It's not clear, maybe the MP4-27 is just the new F1 car. The road car is known as P12 (project 12?).


If Honda of Japan is not interested, perhaps its U.S. subsidiary Honda Performance Development (HPD) might be. HPD has a long history of building near-flawless V8 engines for IndyCar and LeMans. With new engine rules, these have become a 2.4L twin-turbo V6 and 2.8L twin-turbo V6 respectively. It couldn't be a better fit with F1 moving to a turbo V6.

While some note that another engine freeze would disinterest Honda, I believe these days it is now the KERS engineering challenge that would keep Honda interested.

There is some interesting info on their 2009 KERS here:


Anyway I can see a dozen ways in which it is a perfect opportunity for Honda. Time to seize the challenge.


People here keep talking about Honda not having any turbo engines on their road cars, but how about Honda's current work with the new V6 Turbo engine for the IndyCar Series?

Totally unrelated, but it surely will provide valuable experience.


James, I thought the McLaren-Mercedes partnership last till 2015? Why is this talking about 2013-14 now?


McLaren cannot seem to risk on a gamble on making their own engines as they might risk their competitiveness at this level when it and Ferrari are running after Red Bull, plus the not-so-far-off resurgence of Mercedes under Brawn when they sort out their predicaments. It would be a win-win for both McLaren and Honda since McLaren knows that Honda, historically, are capable of making good engines while Honda comes back to F1 without having the risk of their previous shamble works team


If talking about Honda we known very well about their V6 turbo charge engine in the past, ferari is dominating because of their controversial thing that they do to win and always back up by FIA but since cost control rule Ferari never can cope their different performance about force inductions engine ferari really re ally had poor performance in this area its proving during the force inductions era, who dominated by renault and Honda, the possibility of Mclaren Honda is need real deep analysis cause Honda is really uncompetitive when Variable lifting valve is banned and when the composite engine is being restricted, in my personal opinion Mclaren must play wise to take the matter with the Mercedes Benz no need to rush about it. The great change is by use VW engine who has proven the landmark on Turbo engine with their Audi R8,R10,R12 at present, so who knows what future hold for Mclaren


Frankly I dont get why Mclaren would be in such a rush to look for a new supplier. I would think their priority would be agreeing to an extension in using Mercedes engines.

One of the best engines in the field, the best KERS...both Mclaren and Mercedes benefit from the partnership..

And when was the last time we seen a Mercedes engine give up on a driver in the race? The things are as close to bullet proof as can be.

Im not sure why Mclaren wouldnt want a Merc engine..


"when Honda was last in F1 they were far from being the most competitive engine. Their unit was heavier and less powerful than the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault units."

Any proof of that?


What are the possibilities of a BMW return to F1 as an engine supplier for Mclaren? BMW powered Mclaren sound familiar? the iconic Mclaren F1 road car was powered by a BMW unit.



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