The names McLaren and Mercedes became synonymous during the late 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, as the partnership yielded three drivers’ championships and a constructors’ title. Now the two will join forces once again, after they agreed a four-year deal starting in 2021.
The last five years have been dramatic for McLaren as they chose to end a 20-year relationship with Mercedes at the end of 2014 in favour of a works deal with Honda. As is well documented, that partnership – which yielded huge success in the late 1980s and early 1990s – did not work out, triggering a customer deal with Renault for 2018.
The move has proved fruitful, with the iconic British team making strong progress up the constructors’ championship, and they currently lie a strong fourth – ahead of works team Renault.
However, with CEO Zak Brown putting a new management structure in place, led by new Team Principal Andreas Seidl, the team have decided Mercedes – which has been the class leader for most of the hybrid-turbo era – is the way to go as they look to take the next steps towards returning to the sharp end of the grid.
“This agreement is an important step in our long-term plan to return to success in Formula 1,” said Brown.
“Mercedes is the benchmark, both as a team and a power unit, so it is natural we would seek to secure a relationship with the company for the next phase of our journey.
“This announcement reflects the confidence of our shareholders and is an important message to our investors, our team, partners and fans that we are committed to returning McLaren to the front of the field.”
Seidl added: “2021 will be an important milestone for us as we continue our fight back to the front, so it is vital that we have the key elements in place now to enable us to prepare for the new era of the sport.
“We look forward to renewing our Mercedes relationship from 2021 onwards. At the same time Renault remains both a valued partner as well as a formidable competitor, and we will be focused on continuing our collaboration through the rest of this season and next.”
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff said: “Although the two brands share a prestigious history, this new agreement is all about looking to the future and beginning a new era of power unit supply for the years ahead.
“McLaren have been putting in place the building blocks of their revival over recent seasons, including impressive performances this season with Renault power. We hope that this new long-term agreement marks another milestone for McLaren as they aim to take the fight to the sport’s top teams, including our Mercedes works team.”
It means Mercedes will supply four teams from 2021 – their works outfit, plus McLaren, Williams and Racing Point. This is the first time they have had a four-strong roster since 2016, when they supplied Manor. Renault, meanwhile, will only supply their own works team. However Renault will continue to supply McLaren next year, in line with their current contract.
“Since our partnership began, McLaren has gone from ninth to fourth position in the Constructors’ Championship,” said Renault Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul. “We can therefore consider this a very successful relationship. However, while looking beyond the terms of the current contract, which concludes at the end of 2020, it was apparent that Renault and McLaren have different ambitions for the future.
“Each of the different elements of this decision have been carefully evaluated over the past few weeks. 2021 will be a crucial season for all teams and it is important for us to have a precise and clear view of the strengths and ambitions of our competitors going forward.
“This decision is in line with Renault’s vision to become a works’ team, with a goal to return to the front. Renault will continue to honour its commitments to McLaren Racing next season, as has always been the case over our long history of engine supply.”