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The main factor McLaren want to 'influence' in 2026 engine deal

The team has yet to decide on who it will pair with once their contract with Mercedes runs out in 2025, but McLaren does know what type of technical relationship it wants with prospective power unit suppliers.

McLaren has yet to decide on which engine manufacturer it will partner with for the 2026 season, but the team has a firm idea of what type of relationship it wants. There will be six manufacturers come in for the 2026 season with the addition of Audi and Red Bull Powertrains, with McLaren having held talks with multiple parties as their current deal with Mercedes comes to an end in 2025. When asked about what type of relationship it would like with prospective partners, Team Principal Andreas Stella was keen to point out the importance of being able to influence the power unit design to yield any potential performance benefits. "You definitely have to monitor that, if making deals for 2026 as a chassis manufacturer like McLaren, you have enough room for influencing the power unit design so that you are not left behind from a competitiveness point of view," he told media, including RacingNews365.com . "So this is what we are doing in our conversations, we know what we want to achieve. This doesn't seem to be difficult in the conversations we are having, but we are satisfied that this seems to be something that we will be able to achieve." Is there a possibility of McLaren doing a similar partnership to Red Bull and Ford, and bringing in another manufacturer to help with a power unit project in future? Stella confirmed the team is currently not assessing such an option: "That's not in discussion at the moment, certainly not in the foreseeable future."

Important for customer teams to have 'influence' on power unit design

One possibility is a deal with Red Bull after CEO Zak Brown was in discussions with the team earlier this year. This would be a shock move given their recent spat over the budget cap saga in 2022, in which Brown sent a letter to the FIA accusing the team of being "cheaters" for breaking the cap. A move back to Honda comes with the caveat of their recent history with McLaren, and the fact that the manufacturer has recently announced that it will be pairing with Aston Martin - a direct competitor in the car market. Stella believes it is important for customer teams to be in a position of "influence" when it comes to certain parameters to be competitive. "Ideally you want to be in a position where you can influence all the parameters. I think there is two categories. One is layout; how you integrate the power unit within the car together with the chassis, and the other one is performance parameters; how you actually run the power unit." "From the second category point of view, we are very comfortable that the FIA have in place the conditions to make sure that customer teams and factory teams work within the same parameters when it comes to layout."

Stella: Final milliseconds found in chassis development

There is optimism among fellow teams that being a customer entity for the 2026 power unit ruleset should still enable them to compete for championships and race wins. Similarly, McLaren believes that the important areas for grinding out more car performance is within the areas that can be developed at their Woking headquarters. "If it's a matter of [finding] the final milliseconds, we hope we'll be able to through the chassis development and aerodynamics to compensate for that," explained Stella. "We know this is not the absolute best situation [to be in], but we don't think is a decisive factor for being successful in the future." The benefit of being a customer team is the ability to switch power unit manufacturers if your current one is underperforming, something Stella also confirmed is part of McLaren's negotiations when asked by RacingNews365.com . "This element - like the other one about being able to influence - is definitely are part of conversation. So from a contractual point of view, you want to be protected, that you have some criteria of competitiveness," he explained. "If these criteria are not met, then you may even have the possibility to be released from the contract."

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