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Friday, December 24, 2010

#Formula One News - McLaren to design own F1 engines in 2013

Formula One’s governing body the FIA, has recently announced a completely new set of technical regulations for the 2013 season in an attempt to improve the relevance of the sport to road car developments and make it more environmentally friendly. This will include the return of turbo engines for the first time since the 1980s, a decade which is generally regarded as the best in the sports history thanks to the exploits of drivers like Nigel Mansell before he became the face of Moneysupermarket car insurance.
The requirement for turbo engines will require F1 engine manufacturers to completely scrap current designs and start with a fresh sheet of paper. It is expected that the fact that engine manufacturers currently involved in the sport will not hold a competitive advantage, as well as the increased environmental nature of the new formula will encourage a number of new engine manufacturers into the sport. The one manufacturer thought of as the most likely to take advantage of the new rules is Mclaren.

What happened to the Mercedes partnership?
Relations between Mclaren and Mercedes became strained as long ago as 2004. Mercedes wanted to own the majority of the Woking based team with plans to rename it as Mercedes GP. Ron Dennis didn’t want to see his Mclaren Company taken away from him and therefore sold shares in the team to Bahraini investors instead so as to ensure that he remained the majority shareholder which deeply annoyed Mercedes.
Things got even worse in 2007 when Mclaren were fined $130 million and disqualified from the Constructors championship by the FIA for spying on arch rivals Ferrari. Mercedes were livid that members of the Mclaren team had done this under the nose of Dennis, with the Mercedes board alleged to have believed that this would never of happened if they had assumed full control of the outfit.
Mclaren Automotive
The final nail in the coffin came in 2009, when Ron Dennis announced that Mclaren was set to expand as a company due to its new aim to become a force in the sports car market. Dennis formed a group called Mclaren Automotive with plans to produce a fleet of road going Mclaren sports car by 2020. The first of which was the Mclaren MP4-12C which was launched last year. 
Mercedes is alleged to have felt as if Mclaren were treading on their toes, as they had actually become a director competitor rather than a partner. The German company therefore decided to end the partnership with Mclaren and instead buy the Brawn GP team, which finally gave Mercedes the opportunity to race with the team name “Mercedes GP”. Mclaren agreed to buy back Mercedes shares in the team itself over a phased period ending in 2012. Unsurprisingly this is the final year of Mclaren’s contract to receive Mercedes engines and sponsorship.
It is therefore very convenient for Mclaren that the 2013 season, the first in the post-Mercedes era, will be the dawn of a new engine formula. This will give them the opportunity to design their own engines and become a fully fledged manufacturer like the Ferrari team. Mclaren has already experimented with engine designs for the MP4-12C and it is expected that the team will use these same facilities to design its F1 engine.
A British Ferrari
It is believed that Ron Dennis’s ultimate aim is to make Mclaren into the British version of Ferrari. In order to achieve this Dennis realised that he would need to encourage a British perception of the team, something which had been lost during the very German Mercedes partnership. Mclaren therefore hired 2009 World Champion Jenson Button to race alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2010, with the team having previously turned down an opportunity to sign Button back in 2008 prior to the Mercedes split. Mclaren also retained British DTM driver Gary Paffet as a test driver, and gave testing opportunities to the young British GP2 driver Oliver Turvey. It is unlikely that their nationality is a coincidence.

Other possible new entrants
Mclaren will not be the alone in being a new-comer to the F1 engine manufacturer world in 2013, with three other manufacturers also rumoured to be considering an entry. The Lotus Car Company has recently bought a control stake in the old Renault F1 team, with the team being renamed Lotus Renault GP for 2011. Lotus has already committed itself to designing engines for the new environmental Indycar series regulations in 2012, and company CEO Dany Bahar has admitted that finances permitting, he would like to do the same in F1. 
Porsche is another manufacturer who is looking into an entry. The company chairman Matthias Mueller recently admitted that he is not happy that Porsche is competing against sister company Audi in the Le Mans series, and is therefore advocating that one of the two brands be transferred to F1. Porsche already has a strong relationship with the Williams F1 team, with Williams having designed a KERS system for use of Porsche’s hybrid GT3 sports car. Williams F1 CEO Adam Parr is believed to have missed the season ending Abu Dhabi grand prix in order to meet with Porsche board members in Qatar in an attempt to cement this deal.
Perhaps the most surprising of these possible new entrants is Honda. The Japanese company only withdrew from the sport at the end of 2008, however the reduced costs and increased environmental relevance of the sport is believed to have enticed the company back as they aim to displace arch rivals Toyota as the environmental leader. Honda are believed to have been heavily involved in the 2013 engine discussions and it should not be forgotten that they dominated the last turbo era in the 1980s. If they do return it is likely they will only do so as an engine supplier rather than a team owner again, having found that side of the business tough during their last participation. However with four new engine manufacturers, the return of turbo engines, wide slick tyres and ground effects and reduced wing sizes, F1 is set to be a completely new formula in 2013. - (reporting since 1998)
 (reporting since
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