McLaren has described 2014 as a “transitional year” and there is certainly a lot of change going on; with the management coup, which has seen Ron Dennis ousting Martin Whitmarsh as CEO and the departure of the F1 team’s title sponsor Vodafone after seven years.
It appears that there will be no new title sponsor announcement as part of Friday’s online car launch.
Although the team’s long term financial health looks positive, with Honda due to arrive in 2015 with free engines and significant subsidy, many in F1 circles are questioning what sort of budget the team will have in this transitional year and whether it will leave them lagging behind the powerhouse teams Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
Speaking today McLaren MD Jonathan Neale said that, despite the loss of Vodafone, “McLaren Racing will have a larger operational budget available to it in 2014 than it’s had in any previous season in McLaren’s history.”
This, he says, will be achieved because the team’s shareholders (Baharaini investment group Mumtalakat, Mansour Ojjeh’s family and Dennis) are not expecting a profit or dividend on the 2014 turnover; in other words they have set the budget for the year at breakeven (or possibly even with shareholder subsidy, this is not clarified) so that the team can compete with the other benchmark teams.
The team slipped to 5th in the Constructors’ Championship, which will have hit them in terms of share of prizemoney from last year, however their payment from FOM based on historical success will still be significant. The teams share almost $700 million between them and it is very much loaded towards the top teams who have won championships.
Although Neale did not say so, sources close to the team have suggested that the bottom line difference for McLaren between paying for customer Mercedes engines in 2014 and getting free engines and funding from Honda in 2015 could be as much as $100 million.
Neale also said that McLaren had “pushed the limits” in the compliance with FIA crash tests, but he confirmed that they had now successfully passed them all in order to be able to participate in next week’s Jerez test.
He declined to comment on the implications of the Dennis takeover.