Formula One: Are Cosworth the solution to McLaren-Honda’s woes?

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On the eve of the 2017 F1 season McLaren Honda head into the third year of their partnership with little cause for optimism. Despite the FIA’s removal of the Power Unit development token system which previously limited manufacturers ability to modify / redesign technology, Honda solutions seemingly remain at odds with the F1 Hybrid era.

2017 pre-season testing saw Honda introduce an entirely new Power Unit, a fully integrated unit developed around the MCL32. In a bid to improve performance and resolve drivability issues which plagued the 2015 / 16 design, Honda engineers have taken inspiration from the solutions seen with their immediate competitors. This approach, in the short term at least, appears to have failed. McLaren have reported extensive issues with vibrations within the power unit limiting any ability to push for out right performance. Neither team nor engine manufacturer have been able to validate design concepts through pre-season testing and have minimal expectations around the team’s ability to complete a race distance let alone score points in the opening races of the 2017 season.

The situation is unsatisfactory for all parties involved.

In recent days it has emerged McLaren may have made preliminary enquiries towards Mercedes around future power unit supply, some media outlets going as far to suggest a mid season switch could be possible. The reality of this is highly unlikely, both from a commerical and technical perspective the strategy defies logic and any form of long term thinking.

McLaren maintain an ambition to compete for and win world championships. Using Williams Martini Racing as a prime example, despite access to the dominant power unit for the past three seasons, customer status with Mercedes limits their ability to challenge. This should not be the strategy McLaren seek or accept. It may resolve short term frustrations with partners, but it will not deliver world championships.

Instead McLaren may need to seek an alternative solution. It is understood Honda support the team and power unit development to the tune of $100 million per season. On the recommendation of McLaren, Honda could look to redirect this finance to a third party. The third party in question being Cosworth.

When the Hybrid F1 regulations were originally outlined in 2010, Cosworth, similar to Mercedes, dedicated significant resource to develop a new power unit for the sport. The intention had been for Volkswagen to badge the Cosworth power unit, however as the implementation of the new regulations grew nearer VW reneged on their F1 ambitions. This left Cosworth with a concept power unit 4 years in the making but no manufacturer budget to bring the power unit to the grid.

Cosworth have stated in previous years that with budget the power unit they developed could be on the grid within 6 months. They remain confident that the solutions they engineered would be competitive. In theory it would be possible for the Cosworth power unit to become the 2018 Honda F1 Power Unit. It is fair to say there would be a certain amount of pride to overcome between all parties involved, but ensuring future competitiveness may ease the short term pain.

To those who see the suggestion of Honda badged Cosworth Power Unit as the future of the McLaren Honda relationship as far fetched, take a look at the companies house registry for the list of directors at Cosworth. Top of this list you will find Mr Zak Brown, Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group.

12 thoughts on “Formula One: Are Cosworth the solution to McLaren-Honda’s woes?”

  1. Last year Mr. E openly stated that Ferrari talked directly to the Mercedes engine makers for advice and technical information regarding their own engine. Mr. E referred to it as a kind of technology transfer that Mercedes did in order to stop FOM and FIA mandating immediate lower prices for the engine and a real push to allow V10’s back in. This would be seen as a Mercedes concession to better racing and more competitive racing, all they had to do was help Ferrari with their engine. When Toto Wolff was asked about this he smiled and said almost nothing, never denying it.
    I accept as truthful that the commercial rights holder would do anything to make for a better product including talking to Mercedes to do a deal with Ferrari, why wouldn’t Liberty do the same for Honda. There would be no actual hardware transferred it would just be exposure to solutions and ideas. Everyone knows the engine will change dramatically in 2020/2021 and that Mercedes is going to run away with it again this year, Honda will never catch up by the end of the year. Do for Honda what they did for Ferrari so that a great historical team and a great historic engine maker contribute to the show rather than constantly fall on their faces throughout the year. Do it all behind closed doors, say nothing, and improve the show.


    1. I HAVE been saying for a while now that Cosworth are the answer.
      Ron Dennis SHOULD have bought Cosworth before Honda partnership to help with his road car
      Ron wants the British Ferrari – Road Car and F1 team
      Cosworth HAVE the technology – but nobody is using it!!!


  2. “Mercedes helps FARRARI with their engines” ” Honda redirect their money to cosworth” That’s a lot of chaff being pushed out on here.


  3. Honda would be very unlikely to transfer their IP, however seemingly bad, to another outfit. A nice story however and worth putting out there as with the right investment behind them, Cosworth would probably do a better job!


  4. Will appreciate letting me know if the decision as regards me was his or yours than? I honestly still miss the place.


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