Mercedes AMG F1 team principal Toto Wolff revealed that a McLaren-Mercedes reunion in 2018 was close. However, the only impediment to the deal were the lengthy negotiations. When Honda failed to develop a competitive power unit in 2017, McLaren were lining up alternative options for 2018. McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh spoke to Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche about a possible deal. They were banking on the relationship the two built in their last stint together. Mercedes had a 25-year supply deal with McLaren between 1995 and 2014. But when the time came for negotiations, the deal fell through.
According to Wolff, Mercedes was interested in a deal. Unfortunately, the German company did not have the infrastructure in place to supply a fourth customer team at such short notice. Wolff said, “We wanted to give McLaren an engine, the problem is that it dragged on for a long time and we just didn’t have the structure in place and the capacity to supply them an engine for 2018. It was simply too late.”
As a result, McLaren penned a three-year deal with Renault after Toro Rosso agreed to give up its Renault supply and take on Honda power in 2018. Wolff refused to rule out supplying anybody in the future. He admitted that McLaren or any other team in the future could be a partner.
Red Bull has often blamed Renault for the power deficit compared to the class-leading Mercedes power units. Wolff believes that Red Bull’s attitude is the major deterrent to supplying the Austrian marquee.
Wolff said, “It is exactly because they are saying it like this and undermining their current partner that they are not having one!. In Formula One, like everywhere else in life — be it your private life or business life — it’s about compromise and acknowledging your partner’s strengths and weaknesses and helping each other out. That is very much the culture we have at Mercedes and that has made us successful in the last few years. Respect is a super important part of our values and this is why we have chosen the partners we have.”
In all honesty, a McLaren-Mercedes reunion would be interesting. Partly to see if McLaren could return to winning ways. On the other side of the coin, where it comes to engine upgrades, Mercedes would prefer that the factory team gets it before the customer teams.