Feature F1 Unlocked
ANALYSIS: Why McLaren’s new Mercedes power unit deal made perfect sense for both parties
McLaren have moved to securing their power unit future by extending their deal with Mercedes until 2030. F1 Correspondent Lawrence Barretto takes a look at why they’ve gone for stability…
McLaren had long been weighing up their power unit options for 2026 beyond, especially in light of the likes of Ford entering F1 in joining forces with Red Bull Powertrains, Audi making Sauber their works team and opting to create a new PU from 2026 and Honda returning as a fully-fledged supplier by making Aston Martin their works team.
However, Zak Brown and Andrea Stella’s preferred option was always to stick with Mercedes, with whom the team has enjoyed a long and successful partnership.
Mercedes power units have been the class-leader for most of the hybrid turbo era, with their engines securing a remarkable 114 victories in 203 Grands Prix.
With the new regulations seeing a move to 50% internal combustion and 50% electrical power together with the use of 100% sustainable fuels, backing Mercedes to deliver the best solution given their recent prowess is the area that made sense for McLaren.
“Stability and continuity – they are certainly large reasons behind the fact we wanted to continue with [Mercedes] HPP, but above all, we were very impressed by what HPP have already put in place for 2026, how solid their technical programme looks and how committed they are in all respects, even from a financial point of view, so it was an extremely creditable option for us,” Stella told me.
“In fairness, it wasn’t difficult at all to confirm that this was the right way to approach the challenges for 2026 and beyond. We are delighted that we have extended this partnership.”
McLaren are a team who are on their way back to the front but are likely still several years away from becoming a contender for world championships on a consistent basis.
By tying up with Mercedes now, they have two clear seasons to harmonise their 2026 chassis with an engine provider they have a great relationship with and knowledge base of, which in turn should give them the foundations to make another step towards the sharp end of the field.
Should they then be able to regularly fight for podiums and wins across the term of this new deal, when the PU renewal comes up, they will be a more attractive proposition to a potential engine supplier who want to make them their works outfit and thus have more choice on what they do going forward. It also gives them time to assess the relative potential of PU newcomers.
However, according to Stella, the team don’t believe being a customer will be a disadvantage, relative to having a works outfit. “To win races and so on, we have to keep doing a good job, elevating the level in which we operate and raising the bar,” he said. “If we do so on the chassis side, that the power unit sees us in a customer position I don’t think is relevant.
“We don’t think this is a limitation. We are much more focused on ourselves from a chassis point of view, if anything creating the best way of collaborating with HPP, the fact we are a customer team is not a preoccupation at all.”
For Mercedes, signing McLaren up was a no-brainer.
The Silver Arrows admit that having strong customer teams will “deliver faster learnings when the cars hit the track in 2026” and thus that will have a positive impact on their works outfit.
Mercedes have been working on the 2026 power unit since mid-2022, and having clarity early doors that McLaren will be one of their customers – ensuring stability for the future – is an important step for them.
And as Wolff said in the announcement, it makes good business sense for Mercedes-Benz, as the more success they enjoy with customers – alongside the lead team – the greater the justification for their ongoing financial commitment to F1.
It remains unclear who else they will supply going forward, though Aston Martin have already confirmed they will not continue with Mercedes power having signed a deal with Honda for 2026.
Williams, Mercedes’ other current customer team, have yet to confirm their plans. With Ferrari, the Red Bull teams, Sauber and Alpine already sorted – the only other potential customer would be Haas, who have enjoyed a long relationship with Ferrari since they entered the sport in 2016.