McLaren is one of the oldest and most successful teams in Formula 1. Their cars have won titles with legendary drivers like Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, and James Hunt. But, they don’t make their own engines, so you might be wondering what engines McLaren uses in F1.
McLaren use Mercedes 1.6 liter V6 turbo-hybrid engines. McLaren have always been a customer team, never building their own F1 engines. Throughout the years they have had several engine suppliers including Honda, Renault, Porsche, Ford, and more, but their success has varied.
After being founded by Bruce McLaren in 1966, the McLaren F1 team quickly made a name for itself, and they are a team with a rich heritage and history, producing several world champions. Below, we take a look at the engines the team have used in more detail.
What Engine Does The McLaren F1 Team Use?
The McLaren F1 team uses engines from Mercedes. They are a customer team, meaning they buy the Mercedes engines from the works team. Mercedes have dominated the hybrid era since 2014 with powerful engines, but McLaren only became a Mercedes customer team in 2021 (for the second time).
McLaren’s timing in terms of joining forces with Mercedes could not have been worse as the German engine supplier is experiencing its worst form since their strong spell throughout the hybrid era. All Mercedes customer teams, including the Mercedes works team, have been suffering since the start of the new aerodynamic rule changes in 2022.
The biggest issue that these teams, including McLaren, face is the engine freeze that is in place until the end of the 2025 season. This means that the engine suppliers are not allowed to develop their engines during this time. In other words, the poor performing Mercedes engine is here to stay for the near future.
However, that doesn’t mean that McLaren can’t switch to another engine supplier. It’s entirely possible for the British team to jump ship to another engine supplier in the next few years. McLaren has gone through two other engine suppliers since their initial split with Mercedes in 2014 (more on that shortly).
Realistically though, McLaren has exhausted all their options when it comes to engine suppliers. Out of the four engine suppliers in Formula 1, McLaren have already used three in the past eight years: Honda, Renault, and now Mercedes.
The only remaining option is Ferrari, which is not quite an option for the British based team. Ferrari and McLaren have a long history of fighting against one another, and their rivalry has seen some of the most epic battles, from Schumacher and Hakkinen to Senna and Prost.
The bitter rivalry between the sport’s two oldest and most decorated teams even goes as far back as Niki Lauda and James Hunt in the 1970s. It would be essentially impossible for McLaren to put a Ferrari engine in their car. So, what other options do they have?
Realistically, McLaren are likely to stick with Mercedes for the near future. There is a possibility that they could rejoin forces with Porsche, who have been rumored to enter the sport in 2026. Audi have confirmed that they are entering as an engine supplier in 2026, but they have not yet confirmed which team they will be supplying.
Have McLaren Always Used Mercedes Engines?
McLaren have not always used Mercedes engines, although a large part of their history does involve the German engine supplier. Their most successful stint with Mercedes came during their partnership from 1995 to 2009. Mercedes did not have a works team during this period.
The McLaren-Mercedes partnership is one of the most famous in the history of Formula 1, specifically during their battles with Ferrari in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. From drivers like Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes were stacked with talented drivers.
But right at the beginning in 1966, McLaren used Italian Serenissima engines, as well as some from Ford. Both of these engines worked well with the car, and the team managed to score some points, but no victories.
In the 1967 season, McLaren switched to BRM engines. This partnership made a lot of sense at the time because of both companies were based in the UK. Once again, the engines performed alright, and the team managed to score some points throughout the season, but they only finished 10th in the manufacturer’s standings.
In 1968, McLaren switched over to Ford Cosworth engines, which were much more successful. The team scored their first victory through Bruce McLaren, the team owner, and went on to finish the season in second place. BRM engines were also used during this season, but they proved to be much less successful than the Cosworth engines.
The Ford Cosworth engine partnership proved to be a huge success for McLaren, and they eventually managed to win a total of 30 races with the engine supplier. This also bought McLaren their first World Championship through Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974
In 1983, McLaren moved over to Porsche engines under the name “TAG.” The TAG-Porsche McLaren quickly became one of the most dominant cars of the 1980s, raking in 25 wins and three World Championships in just five seasons. Niki Lauda and Alain Prost were the superstar driver pairing that made this era a famous one for McLaren.
The Golden Era
McLaren’s golden era came when they adopted Honda engines in 1988. With Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in the cars, McLaren dominated the sport. But it came at a cost as the drivers fought against one another and their rivalry became so fierce that they even collided with one another at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.
McLaren won the Constructors’ Championships as well as the Drivers’ Championship with Ayrton Senna in 1988, and Prost in 1989, but they lost Alain Prost to Ferrari in 1990. McLaren continued their fine form in 1990 and 1991, taking the constructors’ titles in both seasons, with Senna claiming both drivers’ titles.
McLaren ended their famous partnership with Honda in 1993, and stacked up a total of 44 wins and four world titles in their five seasons together. For the 1993 season, McLaren tested a Lamborghini V12 engine, but they ultimately decided to use a Ford engine instead.
Their 1993 season with Ford was not bad by any means. The team scored five victories throughout the season (all coming from Ayrton Senna) and finished second in the constructors’ standings. The McLaren was ultimately no match for Prost’s Williams, which took both world titles that year.
McLaren lost their superstar driver at the end of 1993 as Senna made the switch to the faster Williams. McLaren, meanwhile, switched to Peugeot engines in what ended up as a disappointing season where they finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship with just eight podiums and no victories.
A Strong Partnership
In 1995, the McLaren-Mercedes partnership was born. This proved to be McLaren’s longest and most successful engine supplier partnership as it lasted up until 2014.
The start of the partnership wasn’t too promising as McLaren finished fourth in the constructors’ standings for three seasons in a row. It wasn’t until 1998 when Mika Hakkinen could challenge Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, winning both titles for McLaren. At this point, McLaren had scored 12 victories with Mercedes, nine of these coming in 1998.
Another three seasons of finishing in second place followed, despite Hakkinen winning the drivers’ title in 1999. McLaren, with Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard at the wheel, were consistently winning and finishing on the podium to challenge the mighty Ferrari team during their strongest era.
A New Flying Finn
In 2003, Kimi Raikkonen replaced the retiring Mika Hakkinen, but the McLaren-Mercedes partnership remained strong. Aside from 2004, McLaren were consistently finishing the Constructors’ Championship in the top three. 2006 was a breaking point for the team, as it was the first time in 10 years that the team didn’t win a race during the season.
In 2007, McLaren had a brand new driver lineup of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. But the team suffered major controversy in the “spygate” scandal. The team was found guilty of copying their title rivals Ferrari, and thus, were excluded from the Constructors’ Championship and fined $100 million.
Fernando Alonso and his rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton both came within one point of winning the Drivers’ Championship, and the team enjoyed several victories and podiums during their 2007 season, which was a fresh start following their disastrous 2006 season.
In 2008, Lewis Hamilton won his first World Championship with McLaren-Mercedes, but the team was beaten to the World Constructors’ Championship by Ferrari. In 2009, the team struggled as they chose to adopt the KERS system. Nevertheless, McLaren won two races and finished third in the constructors’ standings.
2010 And Beyond
Mercedes bought Brawn GP at the end of the 2009 season. With a full works team in the sport, Mercedes and McLaren were now more separated than they had ever been, while still remaining partners.
With McLaren moving back into road car production and technically competing with Mercedes, Daimler, who own Mercedes, decided it was time to create their own Formula 1 team instead of simply being partnered with McLaren. They still supplied the engines, but the unique and once successful partnership was now very different.
After hiring reigning World Champion Jenson Button, McLaren lined up with their all-British team and took the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari, who were the main competitors for the titles in 2010. The team took five victories and finished second in the constructors’ standings.
2011 and 2012 were just as successful. The McLaren-Mercedes of 2011 was quick, but no match for the Red Bull that dominated the entire second half of the season. Again, the British team took five victories and finished second in the standings.
2012 was a difficult season for McLaren, but it still yielded some success. The main title fight was between Red Bull and Ferrari, as McLaren settled for third place in the standings. But the team still took a total of seven victories during the season.
Lewis Hamilton left the team to join Mercedes in 2013, and McLaren’s performance dropped almost immediately. In 2013 and 2014, the team managed no victories, just two podiums, and they finished fifth in the constructors’ standings in both seasons.
Return To Honda Power
In 2015, McLaren made the switch back to Honda power. For many fans it was an exciting prospect as they thought it would be reminiscent of the famous Ayrton Senna era.
But that was not the case. Instead, what they got was a “GP2 engine” according to Fernando Alonso. The Honda engine was struggling for power compared to the other V6 hybrid engines, but it was also extremely unreliable. McLaren finished in ninth place in the Constructors’ Championship in 2015, which was second last at the time.
McLaren stuck with Honda for two more seasons in 2016 and 2017, but the performance of the engines did not improve. The team struggled to sixth place in the standings in 2016, and dropped back down to ninth place in 2017. During their time with Honda, McLaren had no victories, no podiums, and they scored just 133 points in three seasons.
In 2018, for the first time in their history, McLaren teamed up with Renault. Their first season was off to a slow start as they finished in sixth place in the standings. But in 2019 their performance improved as they started to score points consistently and ended up with one podium. The team finished the season in fourth place in the standings.
In 2020 the team stuck with Renault engines and managed to score two podiums and ended up with 25 points scoring positions, which was a significant improvement. McLaren scored 57 points more than they did in 2019, and ended up in third place in the constructors’ standings, their best result since 2012.
Back To Mercedes
In 2021, McLaren returned to using Mercedes engines. The engine that had been dominating the sport since the start of the hybrid era seemed to be the way forward. The team ended the season with five podiums and one victory through Daniel Ricciardo, their first win in almost a decade.
KEY POINTS• McLaren have not always used Mercedes engines in F1
• Their most successful partnership was with the German automotive giant between 1995 and 2009
• They also had a successful run with Honda, with whom they won 4 WCCs
McLaren F1 Team Engines Over The Years
|Serenissima and Ford
Over the years, McLaren have used 11 different engine manufacturers. Not all of these partnerships have been successful, and as a customer team, McLaren are always on the hunt for the best engine suppliers around. The team constantly needs to adapt their car to suit specific engines, and their partnership with Mercedes was their longest and most successful in their time in the sport.
However, their best performing engine statistically was the Honda engine used between 1988 and 1992, where the team won 80% of the championships that they took part in. Their most recent stint with Honda has skewed their partnership stats overall though, as their nightmare stint between 2015 and 2017 yielded no victories and no championships.
Does McLaren F1 Team Use Other Mercedes Components?
Usually when a team buys an engine from another supplier they also take some extra internal components such as the gearbox. This is simply because the engine supplier can design their components to synergize perfectly with the rest of the car.
Teams are sent the computer aided designs (CADs) of the engine and other internal parts before they receive the engine as this will affect the architecture of the chassis and the rest of the car. This allows the team to seamlessly incorporate the engine into their car when it eventually arrives at the factory.
However, McLaren is unique in this sense because they only take the engine from Mercedes. The car still runs on a McLaren gearbox that is built at their Woking factory in the UK. The same system was used with Renault, their previous engine supplier, as the team also built their own gearboxes to work with the engine.
Will McLaren Ever Make Their Own F1 Engines?
There will always be the question of whether or not McLaren will build their own engines in Formula 1. After all, the only team older than them (Ferrari) have been building their own engines for decades, and very successfully too.
The ideal solution would be to take their decades’ worth of knowledge and experience in the sport to invest into building their own engines. However, that does not come cheap. McLaren would need to make huge investments into their factory and facilities to build an engine department, and on top of that, they would need to pay millions of dollars to hire the best engineers in the world.
The Red Bull Powertrains Example
Red Bull are one example of a team that took the leap of faith to start building their own Formula 1 engines. But it has proven to be extremely expensive, with the Austrian company claiming that it’s been their biggest investment into Formula 1 since they bought Jaguar Racing in 2005 to enter the sport in the first place.
However, Red Bull also have the advantage of having a solid relationship with Honda, their previous engine supplier. This meant that they did not need to invest in building new facilities or hiring new experts as the Honda premises and engineers are still being used to design and build the Red Bull Powertrains until their own factory is up and running.
Other Potential Options
After exhausting most of their other options in terms of engine suppliers, McLaren are now stuck with Mercedes for the foreseeable future. But some new opportunities might arise in a couple of years’ time as Audi and Porsche become potential engine suppliers that McLaren could consider.
McLaren currently use Mercedes engines, and their existing contract ends in 2024. The McLaren team has never built their own engines, and they have instead made use of several engine suppliers. Some of these partnerships have been a huge success, but others have been very unsuccessful.
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