Yes, absolutely McLaren is using its race-winning pedigree and history to twist the arm of sponsors by convincing them to pay a premium. Yes, McLaren can justify a premium, but their winning ways is a long distant memory. The Brazilian state energy company, Petrobras, recently declared an early termination of their “unjustifiable” sponsorship deal with McLaren. The deal was worth £163 million over five years, but it only lasted two. One thing we couldn’t understand is why the media was hailing a McLaren’s 2019 form as a recovery. I say, what recovery?
By their own standards, by their high achieving historical standards to see McLaren qualifying outside the top 5, often among the mid-field is a sign of no recovery. With all the resources at their disposal and a state of the art F1 facility, McLaren over the last 5 years has failed. Even with the mighty Fernando Alonso onboard McLaren couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together.
Of course, 2019 has seen an improvement, but it doesn’t compare to the days when McLaren was a consistent competitive threat. Could McLaren become another Lotus? As much as Ron Dennis was feared and maybe revered, he must be pulling at whatever hair strand he can find.
Dennis has been vanquished to the footnote of Formula One history, but at least he had a vision, a plan. The decision to terminate the Honda engine supply was a wrong step to take. And now it seems McLaren has realised so because it is going back to being a customer of Mercedes engines.
The Honda engine deal would have offered McLaren full works access, but McLaren ran out of patience after suffering so many reliability issues. The reliability issues impacted on their sponsors who simply were not getting the coverage they assumed because McLaren was at the back of the field.
The Renault engine supply hasn’t improved the sponsor situation because now Petrobras has left early. McLaren last won a race in 2014, at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. They last appeared on the podium (2nd, 3rd) at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix.
In truth, McLaren will never be short of sponsors, but the real question is can McLaren become a force again?