No regrets about Honda split-McLaren

The chairman of the McLaren Group says he has no regrets about the decision to split from engine partner Honda before the 2018 season.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa of Bahrain admitted it was “an expensive decision” but added: “It was in the long-term interests of the company.”

McLaren have just finished the worst season in their history.

Honda switched to Red Bull’s Toro Rosso junior team and next year will supply Red Bull, who won four races in 2018.

Red Bull, who this year used the same Renault engine as McLaren, have data on both power-units.

They believe the Honda engine ended the season with more performance than the Renault and are hopeful of a step up in competitiveness for 2019 which will allow them to challenge world champions Mercedes and Ferrari more closely.

Meanwhile, McLaren having the same engine as Red Bull this year exposed the fact their chassis had fallen from competitiveness, and a restructure of the team has been instigated.

McLaren started the season expecting to challenge Red Bull for podium finishes but have instead had what has been on average the second slowest car on the grid.

They managed to finish sixth in the constructors’ championship largely thanks to Fernando Alonso’s driving.

That has forced McLaren to recognise their car and design team were not as good as they thought they were. As a result, they have split with several key figures who were involved in the 2018 car and its predecessors, and set up a reorganised management system with a number of new employees.

Sheikh Mohammed is the chairman of the McLaren Group, and the representative of its majority and controlling shareholder, the Mumtalakat investment fund of the Bahraini government.

He said: “On the one hand, (it was) frustrating. On the other, we are committed to this. The way we were heading, the change was bound to come. Tremendous respect for Honda but the relationship wasn’t working and so we had a civilised discussion and we decided to part ways.”

He added: “We will see this through. Frustrating, because we are racers at heart, but you just have to power through.”

The decision cost McLaren in the region of a net $100m (£78.7m), taking into account the loss of income from Honda, which supplied free engines and a significant amount of financial backing, and the need to buy engines from Renault.


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