McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that returning to the arms of Honda will bring additional expectation for success from 2015.
The two giants of F1 history announced last week that they would be reuniting in two seasons' time, as McLaren brings an end to its long relationship with Mercedes, but Whitmarsh insists that it won't necessarily make life any easier for the Woking squad, which is enduring a tough 2013 campaign.
“There will be a massive amount of expectations and pressure,” the Briton told the official F1 website, no doubt reflecting on the four consecutive drivers' and constructors' titles the partnership garnered between 1988-91, “Honda and ourselves have to learn to work together again and I am sure that we will get back to competitiveness as quickly as we can.
“The goal is very clear: to consistently win together. Whether that will be immediately or will take a bit of time, we have to wait and see. I hope they will top the 20 Mercedes years - they certainly convinced us that they would. They are somewhat uncomfortable, certainly, with their last exit [from the sport] and they've made it very clear to us that they intend to come in and be durable and to remain in F1 for a long time. [But] it will be a big challenge coming in in 2015 when all the others have been running a year.”
The timing of Honda's return is not ideal, Whitmarsh admits, with Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari all having had a year of running to the new regulations under their belt. Similarly, despite being able to run the Mercedes V6 in 2014, the Briton knows that McLaren is unlikely to get full access to its technical secrets.
“Of course, it would have been better to make a cleaner transition, but it was a timing issue,” he explained, “Honda has to build up the capability and facility and engineering and they hadn't started in time. They are not going to be ready in 2014 so, yes, this aspect is a bit untidy, but it became necessary.”
Honda's return, with McLaren, had been rumoured as long ago as February but, without an official announcement, Whitmarsh was forced to deny knowledge of the deal as recently as the Spanish Grand Prix. With everything now out in the open, however, it is clear that Woking is excited about its future.
“It was a very important announcement for McLaren,” Whitmarsh confirmed, “I had the good fortune of working together with Honda in the late 1980s and early 1990s and won world championships, so I know their passion for motor racing.
“I have to say that we have a tremendous partner at the moment with Mercedes and it is obvious that they have a long and successful racing culture and passion. There are not many other automotive companies that have that level, but I would say that Honda is definitely there. For us, for our business model, we need to be a works team. It's been a challenge for the last few years, so the Honda partnership is fantastic news for us - and it is good for F1.”
Losing works status with Mercedes, which happened after the German manufacturer took over the Brawn squad in 2010, was a key factor in McLaren looking for a new deal, although Whitmarsh reveals that Honda wasn't the only option.
“There have been other opportunities around, but none of them was interesting enough to contemplate leaving Mercedes [until now] - but Honda is Honda. They are one of the only other OEMs that has that consistent passion for racing. So it became irresistible to us - it was the right thing to do. You can easily imagine that, commercially, it was very advantageous for us....”