'McLaren would be on Red Bull's level now if they had Mercedes engines'

18-10-2019 09:02
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
F1 News
'McLaren would be on Red Bull's level now if they had Mercedes engines'

According to former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve, McLaren would be fighting Aston Martin Red Bull Racing if not for their current engine partners Renault, as the Canadian claims the Woking-based team would be right up there if they'd be powered by Mercedes right now.

At the end of last month, the renewal of the title-winning McLaren-Mercedes partnership got announced as the German works team will again be providing engines for McLaren from 2021 onwards, as they had done for 20 years between 1995 and 2014. It led to three titles, with Lewis Hamilton winning the last one in 2008 and Mika Hakkinen winning back-to-back in '98 and '99.

Since leaving Mercedes for Honda back in 2015, performance has rather drastically gone downhill for McLaren, with their low-point coming in 2017 as they finished as the ninth-best constructor on a 10-team grid, with just Sauber behind them.

This season, however, a resurgence is taking place for the papaya orange cars. A new line-up of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz and a new team principal in Andreas Seidl have proven key factors in turning the ship around in Woking, as Sainz and McLaren top their respective championship tables when it comes to midfield competitors.

"Carlos Sainz seems right at home at the British team and the partnership with teammate Lando Norris is very good," Villeneuve told Sky Sports Italia, where he is a pundit.

"A good relationship like that helps a team like McLaren massively after such a difficult period. They're already seeing the benefits.

"Both drivers are also capable of making the car better and I expect the Mercedes engines will help the team even further."

Scoring three P5 finishes this season alone, Sainz clearly is the man to beat in midfield right now.

"He gets responsibility at McLaren as he's clearly been signed as the number one driver. That has done him wonders and he's translating that confidence into results now."

Sainz' driving has been nothing short of sensational this season, but the car underneath him has been as impressive, if not better. The MCL34 is separating itself from the midfield pack more and more by the race, it seems, and Villeneuve thinks the chassis could be could enough to even challenge Red Bull if it wasn't for McLaren's Renault power unit.

"McLaren's chassis is excellent and I think that if they would've driven with a Mercedes engine right now, they'd be on the same level as Red Bull."

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