Martin Whitmarsh: McLaren's future 'never brighter'

McLaren will become stronger in the future despite its move away from manufacturer ownership and the potential need to find a new title sponsor for 2014

That is the view of its boss Martin Whitmarsh, who says that the company's expanding business portfolio and brand strength in Formula 1 gives him every reason to feel confident about where McLaren is heading.

"It will be stronger," said Whitmarsh about the potency of the McLaren brand in an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT. "Next year we celebrate our 50th anniversary, and we have been in F1 since 1966.

"We have won 25 per cent of the races; we have been on the podium for 50 per cent of the races and we have won Le Mans. We are well placed for the future."

McLaren has been surrounded in recent months by speculation about its future plans - on both the engine front and in terms of sponsorship backing.

There have been wild rumours about it building its own F1 engine, and also of a tie-up with Honda - but Whitmarsh insists it is sticking with current partner Mercedes-Benz.

"We will be with Mercedes," he said. "I don't think we have ever contradicted that..."

On the sponsorship front, there are question marks about whether or not Vodafone will continue as title sponsor beyond its current deal, which runs until the end of 2013.

If the mobile phone company elects to withdraw from F1 totally, or downscale its profile with the team, then that means McLaren will need to find a new title sponsor.

Whitmarsh said his outfit was not daunted by that situation though - as its long relationship with a number of sponsors is evidence of its attraction to major companies.

"There's a challenging world out there," he explained. "We have a track record of delivering value, and we are also fortunate that we have good blue chip companies supporting us.

"Vodafone is title sponsor, and we hope and expect to continue there, but we have had an unprecedented relationship with sponsors, some of whom have been around for 30 years.

"We have 10 sponsors that have been with us for more than 15 years, and 15 years in sports sponsorship, let alone F1 sponsorship, is incredible. That diversity is part of the strength.

"But our core business is F1. We have to win in F1.

"People will and have taken pot shots at us to say, 'you are distracted because of the vision of Ron [Dennis] for MTC [the McLaren Technology Centre] and other businesses', but I think people would now say that industrially and economically we are stronger by being more diverse.

"History shows that 107 F1 teams have failed since we have been in F1, and therefore being a pure F1 team has undoubted peril.

"If you look forward now and ask anyone in this paddock or beyond it, name two teams that you believe will be in F1 in five year's time, I think 98 per cent of respondents would say McLaren and Ferrari. F1 drives us on..."

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