McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has suggested that the Woking operation could replace its current Mercedes engine supply with its own powerplant, even though he admits that the idea does not necessarily fit with its business methods.
Speaking to Motor Sport
magazine, Whitmarsh acknowledged that work done on the engine that powers its new MP4-12C road-going sportscar could translate into an F1 unit in time for the rule changes that come into effect for the 2013 season, even if the idea was unlikely to come to fruition.
"We are ruling nothing out, because we are an ambitious team," he said of the present 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, "F1 one is the third largest sporting event in the world and the best environment for brands to differentiate."
Since coming under the auspices of, initially, Ron Dennis and, for the last couple of years, Whitmarsh, McLaren has used Ford, TAG Porsche, Honda and Mercedes engines, with the latter relationship continuing to this day despite the two parties going their separate ways in terms of a business partnership. With the 'factory' Mercedes squad struggling to emulate the success its predecessor Brawn GP enjoyed in 2009, McLaren remains the Three-Pointed Star's best hope of success in F1, and Whitmarsh accepts that the relationship is likely to continue into the future.
"If I'm honest, we have no plans to build more than 4500 [MP4-12C] units per year and, comparing the cost [of producing a F1 engine] with the 4500, then that's probably not the right business model," he conceded.
Ironically, Whitmarsh's suggestion that McLaren could run its own engine would help to underline the point of introducing new regulations - for smaller engines with turbochargers - from the 2013 season, namely attracting new manufacturers to the sport.
"If it does not do that, one of the main goals of the new regulations will have been missed," the FOTA chairman noted.
Whitmarsh also used the Motor Sport
interview to add his voice to the current debate about overtaking and the impact of track design upon it. With several notable F1 names lamenting the layouts of the newer circuits, the McLaren boss appeared to heap further criticism on the FIA's preferred penman, Hermann Tilke.
"Think of the airport tracks like Cleveland, with the wide corners and more than one possible line, and you can see how easy it can be," he said, "On the other hand, you could call it an opportunity missed if [circuits like Abu Dhabi] have one of the longest straights in F1 and a chicane at the end of it with only one possible line.
"Brazil is a good example [of an 'overtaking-friendly' track]. The facilities are not good, but the races are fantastic. So, when you start something new in the desert and with no apparent structural or financial limitations, it is a pity that we don't go the easy route and copy some of the greatest corners in the world."