“You cannot win World Titles with customer engines”- Why did McLaren choose Honda over Ferrari or Mercedes as power unit supplier?

Somin Bhattacharjee
|Published 05/06/2022

McLaren boss Ron Dennis made the decision to have Honda as their power-unit supplier in 2015 ahead of Ferrari,  or Mercedes.

Dennis was with McLaren for a long time, and oversaw some of the team’s  most successful periods. His final years at the Surrey based outfit however, was not as fruitful and he ended his association with the company in 2017.

Ahead of the 2015 season, McLaren decided to end their partnership with Mercedes and have Honda supply engines for them. This was a bold move made by Dennis, who believed that being a customer team in F1 had no benefits whatsoever.

This was before FIA made the rule that suppliers have to give same engines modes to customers. As a result, the manufacturers often presenter the customer teams with weaker engine modes. This prevented them from making any real strides and they always lacked in performance.

Dennis insisted that unless they had the best engines from whoever was manufacturing them, they could never compete for the World Title. As a result, he signed a deal with Honda, who own their own didn’t field any team in Formula 1.

Also read: “Charles Leclerc is having a hard time and makes mistakes”- Helmut Marko on how Red Bull is putting Ferrari star under tremendous pressure

Why McLaren decided to cut ties with Mercedes

Mercedes were McLaren’s engine supplier from 1995 until 2014. However, the onset of the turbo-hybrid era led to changes made within the Woking outfit. Dennis decided that they needed an engine that wouldn’t just give them power, but one that they could use themselves and rely on.

In spite of there being interest from Ferrari and also Mercedes renewing, Dennis decided to go for Honda.

“A modern grand prix engine at this moment in time,” he said. “Is not about sheer power. It is about how you harvest the energy, it is about how you store the energy.”

“Even though you have the same brand of engine that does not mean you have the ability to optimize the engine. You have to start by putting yourself in a position where you have the best engine available. We have had a great partnership with Mercedes. But we intend to hit the ground running with Honda and that is the first step.”

McLaren’s reunion with Honda did not turn out to be fruitful for either party. Reliability issues plagued their campaigns together, and ultimately resulted in the Japanese company leaving F1 altogether.

Also read: “It was unnecessary for a three times world champion to do something like this” – When Michael Schumacher was furious with Ayrton Senna at the 1992 Brazilian Grand Prix


About the author
Somin Bhattacharjee

Somin Bhattacharjee

Somin Bhattacharjee is an F1 writer at The SportsRush. He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration and aims to work in the sports industry for the rest of his life. Somin has been a fan of Scuderia Ferrari since 2010 and his favorite driver is none another than the great Fernando Alonso. Other than longing for a Ferrari Championship win once again, Somin spends his free time playing football and basketball.

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