McLaren 'convinced' beating Mercedes is possible with same engine

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McLaren is "convinced" it is possible to beat Mercedes with the same engine, according to team boss Andreas Seidl.

This season, the Woking-based squad reunites with the German manufacturer, a partnership that won three Formula 1 championships during their two decades together.

However, a key difference now is McLaren is only a simple customer of Mercedes, something that explains the lack of branding on the MCL35M.

And it was the belief of former CEO Ron Dennis that customer teams can't win in F1 which motivated the decision to drop Mercedes for Honda after 2014.

“In the end, the target for us was clear: we wanted to get a championship-winning power unit in the back of our car and the Mercedes one is the only one that is available,” said Seidl via Motorsport Week.

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“I think, compared to the past, in terms of how the regulations are worded, nowadays they ensure that you get exactly the same treatment as the works team gets, and also we have a lot of trust in that regard to Mercedes.

“Independent of that, also the way that the FIA is ensuring that the policing of these regulations – making sure that these regulations are fulfilled – I think the FIA has made a great step in terms of monitoring the different power units and how they get used by the different teams.

“We are definitely convinced that we are in a position, once we are there as a team, that a Mercedes power unit can help us to win races again in the future, definitely."

However, the German boss once again reiterated it would take time for McLaren to be back as a front-running team, with a new engine not signifying a silver bullet in that regard.

“I think it is important that we focus on ourselves and we still have a long way to go on the team side,” he said.

“We are happy with the progress we made in the last two years, but at the same time there are still other things we need to get in place first on the restructure side and team side before we battle for race wins again.”

The new rules from 2022 might just be the catalyst for McLaren to end what is a near-10-year wait for a victory, with their last coming in Brazil in 2012.

But technical director James Key also admitted the team isn't ignoring this season, as they aim to defend their third place in the Constructors' Championship from last year.

"There has been an aero push," he said after the recent launch of the MCL35M. "Any new set of regs naturally open up fresh opportunities in other areas anyway, so the car does look a bit different.

"There will be some fresh ideas on there. The front of the car, from a regulation point of view, hasn't changed at all but there are developments that we're still looking at in those areas as well, and that will continue on into the season.

"I think it would be naive to think that you could kind of just adapt a bit to the reg changes and move on. Everyone's going to be pushing for sure, so we wanted to make sure we were doing the same."

And as for the challenge of fitting the new Mercedes engine into a car originally designed for the Renault unit...

"Every engine installation is really quite different," explained Key. "There is no one solution on how these power units are laid out, or the sizing of various key components either that affect the car's architecture.

"So what we needed to try and do is respect the homologation process by not changing things that didn't really need to change in line with installing the engine.

"But clearly, making the changes we needed to do to homologated parts, that allowed us to change the chassis, which of course has to change with a new engine and the energy store aspects of the gearbox for packaging purposes.

"It added an extra dimension, which probably led to a slightly suboptimal approach compared to what you would do if you're completely free. But I don't think it was that much of a compromise."