McLaren's Whitmarsh plays down Honda talk and says focus on Mercedes engines
Chief coy on longer-term but reiterates Merc commitment to 2015
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 06/03/13 10:17am
Suggestions that Honda are gearing up for a return to Formula 1 as an engine supplier to re-establish their once all-conquering partnership with McLaren has swirled for some time, despite Whitmarsh stating last November that it is "going to be McLaren-Mercedes for quite a few years to come".
Although McLaren have not been Mercedes' 'works' operation since the German manufacturer bought the then Brawn GP team in late 2009 and started a phased withdrawal from their shareholding in the Woking-based team, McLaren have continued to use their long-time partners' engines - an agreement which runs to at least the end of 2015.
And Whitmarsh, McLaren's Team Principal, has reiterated that the deal has another three seasons to run and they are focused on achieving more success with Mercedes engines.
"What I can tell you is we have a contract with a long-standing partner, Mercedes-Benz, for 2013, 2014 and 2015," Whitmarsh said in an interview with Sky Sports F1's Natalie Pinkham.
"So we have a contract, they're our partners and we're going to try and win World Championships and races with them."
Honda, along with several other well-known car makers, have repeatedly been linked with entries into the sport since the framework for Formula 1 's new turbocharged, greener engine formula - which begins in 2014 - was first announced.
Whitmarsh, who also serves as the Chairman of the seven-member Formula One Teams' Association, admitted F1 as a whole needed additional engine suppliers to serve the 11-outfit grid.
He did remain coy on what the longer-term future might hold in this area for McLaren, but reiterated that their focus was on Mercedes for now.
"There's a lot of speculation and I've heard Porsche, Hyundai, Honda, all those sorts of names," he said.
"I hope for Formula 1 that these manufacturers come back - we need them in the sport. At the moment we've got Renault, Mercedes, Ferrari; we need more engine suppliers.
"We've got a good and long-standing commitment to Mercedes-Benz, that's what we're focused on right now.
"In the longer term who knows what's going to happen? We're delighted to be partnering Mercedes-Benz. They've done, certainly in the last few years, a fantastic job and we've won a lot of races together and we're going to try and win quite a few more in the next few years."
Honda were last involved in F1 in any capacity in 2008 but the onset of the global financial crisis, and subsequent slowdown in car sales, prompted the group to withdraw from the sport and sell the team which is now Mercedes to Ross Brawn and his management partners.
The most successful of the Japanese car giant's three separate periods in F1 came when they supplied engines to McLaren between 1988 and 1992, winning both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship in all but their final season in partnership.
You can hear more from Martin Whitmarsh on Friday's edition of The F1 Show at 8pm on Sky Sports F1.