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Neale denies Honda links

NEWS STORY
23/11/2011

Mat Coch writes:

McLaren has firmly rebuffed suggestions the team could switch to Honda engines for the 2014 season.

Originating in Germany, reports had claimed the Japanese firm is keen to rekindle the relationship which heralded four consecutive titles in the late 1980's. However, McLaren Managing Director Jonathan Neale quashed such notions in the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in.

"That's all wide of the mark," he said. "I can scoff the rumour and say that we are entirely focussed on our Mercedes-Benz relationship, we have a long standing relationship spanning many wins and championships and long may that continue.

"We are wedded to, very happy with and enjoying our partnership with Mercedes-Benz," he added.

However, with the team reverting to a customer supply of the German power plants from next season there has been concern in some corners that it may sour the longstanding relationship. No so, believes Neale. "Mercedes have their own GP team and it's right and proper that a degree of focus is going to go in that direction," he conceded. "We make a healthy technical contribution, they are formidable technical partners in the engine space and we enjoy that relationship.

"I was just talking this morning with Thomas Fuhr up at Mercedes-Benz, we speak frequently, and we want the same thing. It's in our interests to have a consistent engine together because that's how we get the highest quality.

"Thomas was enjoying that he managed to get six cars in the top ten qualifying positions on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, and they take real pleasure and delight in that, and so they should. And of course we like to beat them all as well, so that worked well for us!"

The team's engine relationship isn't the only change for 2012, with exhaust regulations set to change the way teams design their cars. It could prove an opportunity to knock Red Bull from its perch, though Neale is not writing them off quite so quickly.

"They've got themselves in too good a position with a package that works well under these regulations and on these tyres, and clearly they've been able to exploit that in the last two years," he said.

"We had an era of Ferrari dominance at the beginning of the decade," Neale recalled. "Anybody whose watched the sport over a period of time will watch teams come in to a moment of sweetness, or hit the sweet spot for a couple of years and maybe tail off. That's not always caused by regulations change; sometimes it's caused by being caught out in changes in technology.

"If you look historically over twenty years you would write McLaren or Ferrari off at your peril," he warned. "Both organisations have been around for a long period of time and have powerful engineering organisations and a record of making the right choices."

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