McLaren is in talks with potential partners including Audi, a further source has confirmed to Automotive Daily’s exclusive partner Autocar – but the source stresses that other potential investors are also involved as preliminary discussions ramp up, including BMW.
On Monday Autocar followed up on reports in the German media suggesting that talks were underway, reporting that a separate source had identified that Audi had completed a deal, which was hotly denied by McLaren.
In a statement, the brand said the story was “wholly inaccurate”, adding: “McLaren’s technology strategy has always involved ongoing discussions and collaboration with relevant partners and suppliers, including other carmakers, however, there has been no change in the ownership structure of the McLaren Group.”
However, a new source has now revealed that Audi’s talks have progressed to an “important” point, suggesting that the premium car maker must decide whether to progress or walk away imminently. In reaction to the story in the German media Reuters reported that Audi said it was “open to cooperation opportunities”.
Autocar’s latest source added that Audi was not the only potential bidder, however, naming BMW as another potential suitor, and indicating that other car manufacturers were also potentially holding early-stage discussions with McLaren. BMW stands by its original response, saying that earlier reports of its interest in McLaren are “wrong”.
All parties that have shown an interest in McLaren are said to have begun their approach as a result of interest in entering Formula 1 with the team, although the source acknowledged that some had then widened their conversations to include the road car arm of the firm.
The structure of McLaren means that the sporting and automotive arms of the firm have separate ownership structures. Both sides of the company have undergone heavy restructuring in recent times, including fund raising and job losses, as well as the sale of the McLaren Applied Technologies division and lease-back of its Woking HQ.
VW Group brands Audi and Porsche are widely known to be actively evaluating Formula 1 entries. BMW’s name has not been linked to a return to the sport until now, although the success of Mercedes and the potential entry of Audi makes a re-evaluation of that position logical.
Hyundai has previously been linked to Formula 1, but there is no evidence of it planning to switch from the World Rally Championship at present, while several Formula 1 teams are reported to have wooed a variety of Chinese car makers to look at the sport, albeit with little success to date.
The latest revelations come despite Reuters also reporting that a BMW spokesman rubbished talks of a potential partnership with McLaren. The two firms already work together on several projects, including some relating to battery technology, and it is believed that these have led to informal conversations about deepening the partnership that have yet to be formalised. However, a decision on whether to progress talks formally is expected to be imminent.
Were Audi to forge a partnership, the two sides would have to negotiate how it might juggle the brands involved. While a McLaren-Audi partnership in F1 could work, it would leave the VW Group with the quandary of how it prioritised Lamborghini and Porsche within its own portfolio.
It is also unclear what the implications of any Audi-McLaren tie-up would have on the now-finalised partnership between VW Group stablemates Rimac and Bugatti, which has been devised with the aim of developing all-electric successors to the Nevera EV hypercar and the soon-to-be-retired Bugatti Chiron.
Separately, the VW Group is said to be weighing up F1 entries with both Audi and Porsche. It is thought the most likely route for Porsche into F1 would be as a powertrain partner to an existing team, with Red Bull Racing – which is currently building its own independent powertrain department in Milton Keynes – considered to be the most likely option for such a deal.