McLaren views the potential of working with a brand new power unit manufacturer in 2026 as a risk that is not worth taking compared to extending its partnership with Mercedes.
Team principal Andrea Stella said over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend that McLaren is “quite advanced” in its talks with Mercedes about continuing its current partnership from 2026 onwards, following exploratory discussions with Red Bull Powertrains. While there was also interest in working with Audi before it opted to make Sauber its works team, Stella said something along the lines of the Aston Martin deal with Honda – an already-proven current supplier – is the ideal scenario for a team in 2026.
“There’s three options,” Stella said. “One is, ideally you are a works team but with an established power unit manufacturer. Then there’s being a customer with an established (manufacturer) – I think joining with a new partnership comes with an element of risk.
“In 2026 we want to be there, we don’t want to be saying ‘OK now we need two years because the project is too immature’. We want to be there from a chassis point of view and sound from a power unit point of view. If I had to choose, I would always choose to be a works team. But I don’t think that this is a fundamental differentiator to be able to win.”
Stella believes McLaren needs to work on other aspects of its organization to have a better chance of winning, and doesn’t want the team prioritizing its power unit future at this point.
“At the moment if we look at our limitations, they are nothing to do with the power unit,” he said. “I think they are much more fundamental and that’s where I would like to keep the focus.
“Even when I think about having to improve from an aerodynamic point of view or having to improve from a tire point of view… the role of the power unit, even in terms of layout and construction and so on, is really small. So I remain convinced that it could be one of the final incremental elements … but I do not think it should be too much of a preoccupation.”
The signing of Red Bull’s Rob Marshall comes after he worked on powertrains at Milton Keynes, but Stella had already ruled out any connection between that and the talks regarding a power unit supply deal.
“There is no link,” Stella said of Marshall’s arrival. “We had conversations with Red Bull a few months ago as part of the due diligence in exploring what’s available on the market in terms of power unit for 2026, but at the moment we are quite advanced in our negotiations with HPP, so there’s no conversation ongoing with Red Bull.”