McLaren and BP

The giant oil company BP is to return to Formula 1 in 2017, and I now hear that the deal is definitely going to be with McLaren. Logically, we will see BP branding on the car and perhaps also some Castrol as well, as BP owns Castrol and a deal would normally include both fuel and lubricants. While the deal may be about branding and money, it is also about technology because fuel can make a big difference with the current F1 engine regulations. The key is energy
density because the teams want as little volume of fuel as possible, but the maximum amount of energy to be used to power the cars. Petronas have enjoyed much success with Mercedes in recent seasons with its Primax fuel which has a very high energy density. The deal may have been helped along by Honda’s lengthy relationship with Castrol, which dates back to motorcycle racing in 1959. In recent years Castrol has been the title sponsor of the Honda World Touring Car Team.

BP has had a long and very successful in motor sport but has not been present in
Formula 1 since 1994. It is believed that this is mainly because of a 10-year deal that BP had with BMW. However, this was not used during the BMW Sauber era because the team had a long-standing agreement at that point with Petronas. That deal ended at the start of last year and it is interesting to see that BMW has done a new unique global supplier deal with Shell, which explains why there was a Shell-sponsored BMW in the DTM. Shell has a special relationship with Ferrari in F1, but that deal is relatively small when one considers that production levels at Ferrari in comparison to other OEMs. Shell is linked to Ford in NASCAR and to Hyundai in the World Rally Championship. It is also the official supplier of fuel to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest for the World Endurance Championship.

BP is keen to drive more consumer sales, which have flagged in recent years in comparison to other companies. In part this is due to the reputational damage done to BP by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. That has cost the company billions in settlements and now BP wants to boost its image of having
advanced technology and proven expertise. It is still keen to push the idea of environmental responsibility but this can be achieved by getting involved in the sport and pushing more efficient engines, rather than staying away from motorsport, as was previously the case.

72 thoughts on “McLaren and BP

  1. Maybe this will bring a return of British racing green. 🙂

    Would be great to see a classic color back in the liveries.

    1. Oh my . Wouldn’t that be great ! Doubtful mind you . But hey .. one can wish .. can’t one ?

    2. Unlikely. BP is bright green and yellow. Anyway, they won’t be a major sponsor just a partner with branding on the car much like Exxon-Mobil is now.

      1. The BBC also suggests that Dennis *did* get the money to buy the required shares but that, in effect, his fellow shareholders backed out of their side of the bargain.

        Is that how it looks from your side of the paddock?

  2. Well lets hope that what’s left of McLaren next year, will go faster with BP and Castrol whoever is in charge of it. Honda could do with a reputation boost too, we are a long time from Honda winning in F1, even if their engine sounds best of the field by far.

    1. Have you actually been watching the races this year?

      McLaren are basically best of the rest now behind Mercedes, Red Bull & Ferrari. When those three teams drivers finish without drama Alonso has often been 7th and with the engine token system being scrapped next year expect some big gains from Honda.

      With Ferrari merrily shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity I fully expect McLaren-Honda to be third best (at least) next year.

      1. Yes I have, 7/10 needs to try harder!
        I was referring to the management actually. The lack of Ron when more da do Ron Ron is needed.
        But hopefully we shall get Martin back.
        It is comforting to know that most of the money behind Mclaren’s owners is not in oil. (Saudi is badly affected with mass unemployment and cutbacks even in privileged government offices.)

  3. I hope the deal is big and the corporate colours form the McLaren livery. It would look far better in green, yellow, white and red than it does now!

  4. Joe Saward: “Shell has a special relationship with Ferrari in F1, but that deal is relatively small when one considers that production levels at Ferrari in comparison to other OEMs.”

    1929. That’s when Enzo Ferrari made a sponsorship deal with Shell. Did it ever stop, Joe? If you look at the Shell or Ferrari websites, history is confusing. But Shell seems to have powered Ferrari forever.

    1. Shell left Ferrari in the mid-70s, replaced by Agip. The Agip/Ferrari partnership lasted 20 years or so. Shell eventually ended up on the McLarens, returning to Ferrari when Michael Schumacher joined that team.

      1. There are NDA’s in place to protect IP, so only Honda would be providing data not Exxon. Optimizing the fuel to work with the ICE is not as easy as just whipping up a cocktail. Fuel development is a key element of the new power units.

  5. Actually, BP was present in F1 – via Castrol – until 2005, with BMW-Williams. If my memory serves me correct, Jaguar also had some Castrol branding after Texaco left.

  6. A Castrol livery on the Mclaren car would look sweet. *Imagines* In the famous words of Captain Picard: “Make it so!”

  7. Unconvinced that the average consumer is bothered about Deep Water Horizon outside of USA. I suspect most consumers hold more store on price or incentives at pos. Great news to see BP back Toleman, Larousse (?) , Leyton House its been a while. However who did the deal? Honda or McLaren? McLaren had been pretty average at sponsor aquisions lately !

    1. +1 on price/incentives @ POS being the biggest driver for revenue among petrol companies. Fuel has a utility-like status in the same way as electricity, water and gas. Consumers generally purchase these things based on necessity, convenience and price. Lubrication on the other hand, is somewhat different.

    2. I live in the UK and I haven’t fueled at BP since Deepwater Horizon. It wasn’t a rational choice (I was polluting the planet in just as much the same way) or a decision driven by price, as I usually just go to the closest pump.

  8. what’s happening to exon in this deal? assume McLaren wont have both oil sponsors on the car… Haven’t Exon been a key McLaren partner for ever?

        1. Which also saw service (after lots of development) in the XJR-10 and 11, I think?

          That was prior to Ross Brawn using a Ford HB F1* in the gorgeous XJR-14.

          *(it is Joe’s Grand Prix blog after all so I’ve got to try and drag it back to F1 out of respect for our host)

  9. Hope the BP and Castrol sponsorship include a major change in McLaren’s color scheme. I seriously dislike the blackish-gray they’re running now. Probably sparkles really nicely up close and in person, but on American TV, the cars look near black and the sponsor’s names don’t really jump out. Without a doubt, Shell sponsorship of Ferrari is superb. I think their color scheme this year, esp. the white around the cockpit, is stunning. In a perfect world, it would be great to go back to McLaren orange, but then I’m showing my age.

    1. They haven’t been orange since 1972! I’ve long since given up on McLaren returning to orange. Commercial priorities have long surpassed heritage as a driving factor.

  10. Wow, I notice that this significant story is not all over Autosport, and Motorsport.com.

    Perhaps someone will send them a press release to cut and paste in due course.

  11. This is the end of a long partnership with Mobil for McLaren, is this going to be title sponsorship to finally fill the empty sidepods ? (Still cannot understand how they have been left blank all year, bizarre)

  12. Its only 13 miles between the McLaren Technology Centre and the BP Technical Campus in Sunbury….

    Nice and handy for R&D

    I made the link on an earlier story regarding Castrol and Honda being as much part of the deal as BP and McLaren…

    Will the rear wing advertise the Wild Bean Cafe I wonder ?

    1. All this talk of BP is reminding me of rainy F2 races with 2x Toleman cars sponsored by BP.
      But who were the drivers ?
      I think Brian Henton was the lead driver?
      This was before Toleman reached F1.

      1. Rad Dougall in the March/Ralt years (pre-BP?) as I recall.

        Tolemans were Derek Warwick and (briefly) Stephen South before Henton was rehired. Though I may be misremembering.

      2. Henton, yes, and Derek Warwick. 1980.

        At Thruxton at the Easter Weekend meeting, they lapped everyone except Ron Dennis’ Project Four cars. Andrea Cesaris came home third – more than 3/4 of a *minute* behind Henton.

        1981 in F1 was…not quite so successful.

  13. In turbo V6 era, fuels have been more important but i still didnt understand why McLaren wants BP. Rivals such as Petronas, Shell have been working at least 3 years in F1 project. Furthermore, how much extra money will McLaren earn than Exxon ? I dont think McLaren didnt consider performance loss or gain with this change.

  14. Being rather dumb when it comes to the turnaround time of developing a new fuel… Am I right in assuming BP will have been working with Honda for a while now to get ‘ahead of the game’ for next year?

    Also re RedBull, will Reanult and Red Bull having different fuel suppliers allow for a power difference? Are they possibly going to get an advantage from using Exon and working with them directly, compared to taking the Total solution ‘off the shelf’? Again, probably a dumb question!

    1. It was probably driven by Honda via Castrol so may have been in the pipeline for some time. Assuming Honda is moving to a Turbulent Jet Ignition based top end next year its likely (given that said motor is already on the dyno – fact) that initial formulation of the new fuel would be contemporaneous with that.

  15. When Castrol sponsored Audi in Le Mans (convenient that their departure from WEC frees up their marketing budget) or Williams in early 2000s, the logos were generally in the same colour as the base livery so not sure we will see much green on the livery.

  16. “BP is keen to drive more consumer sales” they better open a few more petrol stations then. Shell are everywhere -here in the northwest – whilst BP seemingly have fewer than Tesco!

    A green Macca? Hmmmm…

    If Honda’s relationship with BP was the main source of influence to create this, it is important – especially if Ron is halfway out the door. Or did Exxon dump Macca in favor of RB thus simply leaving a void easy to fill, possibly at a bargain rate!

    1. Shell no longer exist here in Northern Ireland. All the former Shell petrol stations became BP some years ago.

  17. But Exxon Mobil 1 have 3 years experience of developing the fuel, lubricants and coolants for the F1 hybrid power units with Honda. And Red Bull are going to benefit from all the difficulties Mclaren went through just as Exxon Mobil 1 come good and Mclaren get BP Castrol who start at zero again. Whose decision was this. Ron Dennis, Alonso, Prodromou, Honda, Exxon Mobil were the 5 main reasons the project was going to succeed. In one week the project loses 2 of them. Its like Martin Whitmarsh is back already (giving 1 of them to a major competitor).

    1. I didnt think F1 fuel was meant to be so exotic thesedays, its supposed to be based on the stuff you literally buy on the forecourt, BP have plenty of experience of producing racing fuel and Honda will give them all the specs the engine needs, I really dont see it being an issue for them at all.

      but there you go Ive never seen a Petronas garage, so how useful these deals are, arent always directly translatable to our own experiences

  18. So the Mobil 1 show which is on a few TV channels will next season have Red Bull.
    Bit of a smash and grab by Red Bull from under the feet of Mclaren.
    Red Bull TV and now Mobil Tv. Can this be the new Red Bull media pay per view spring board in the making.

    BP with Mclaren. Looke interesting.
    Will they change there livery to green and yellow and a slash of white next season? Then again that’s already been done somewhat by Lotus/Caterham.

  19. It has nothing to do with BP’s relationship with Honda, because the latter and Mobil have a good partnership in Japan and the U.S.

    It’s a simple case of bang for your buck. Unfortunately McLaren haven’t had that bang of late and sponsors want a return. Hugo Boss, Tag Heuer and now Mobil1.

    MBGP and RBR are getting the column inches and the media coverage.

    Just like betting on the horses…read the form guide and place your bet.

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