McLaren wants Renault to power the once-great British team back to the podium in 2018. After three bad years with Honda, McLaren has dumped the Japanese manufacturer to switch to customer Renault power units. But McLaren boss Zak Brown denies that the decision to dump Honda was made because of pressure applied by Fernando Alonso.
"He never came and said 'We need a new engine'," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "Fernando just wanted to know what our plan was about taking a step closer to the front with our power unit," Brown said.
He says another major consideration was that after three fallow years, McLaren simply could not afford to languish again in 2018. "We have many talented people that the other teams would love to have," said Brown. "We have to provide a healthy platform."
However, dumping Honda will cost McLaren dear, due to lost sponsorship, a Renault engine bill and Alonso's reportedly EUR 30 million 2018 retainer. Brown said: "We have very good shareholders who put the performance of the team first. And we have a lot of money in the bank."
And so he says he is looking forward to a better showing in 2018. "It feels like a new start," he said. "We now have everything we need to be competitive."
However, Brown is warning that fellow Renault-powered teams including Red Bull have a head start over McLaren. And he added: "The guys at the front are very fast. We need to bring our A-game. We're hoping for podium finishes. But if we put the podium as a definite target and finish fourth, then we would be disappointed. But actually that would be our best result in years. Will we be able to win the title next year? There a risk of setting the bar too high."
On the other hand, Brown said he likes what he sees from Renault so far. "We've been at the engine factory a few times and we like what we see," he confirmed. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing