Earlier this year, Honda announced that it would return to F1 as an engine supplier to McLaren Racing in 2015. The two companies enjoyed a fruitful partnership in F1 between 1988 and the end of 1992, winning four drivers’ championships and four constructors’ crowns during that spell.
Whitmarsh described the new deal as a “multi-year” one, and his comments suggest that there is scope for a much deeper co-operation that could spread into McLaren’s automotive division.
“It’s a pure Formula 1 contract, but we’ve already been looking at automotive technology and we’re sharing that very openly,” said Whitmarsh at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. “Our road car strategy at the moment has no other automotive partner and Honda would be a good place to collaborate.”
Whitmarsh said the results of any Honda involvement in future McLaren road cars wouldn’t be seen for some years. The company is currently working on the third model in its contemporary range, the Porsche 911- rivalling P13, but Honda hasn’t had any input into that car.
“If you look at our product range, 12C is running and will run for a few more years. P1 has just been launched and P13, which is the follow-up car, is relatively developed, so actually it is something that you would see in quite a few years to come,” he said.
A deeper relationship between McLaren and Honda would most likely be a bilateral technical arrangement, with both sides reaping the benefits for their road car projects.
“Nothing’s fixed, but we’re open to that and so are they,” said Whitmarsh.
It has also been reported that a McLaren 12C is being used in Acura's benchmarking tests for the new NSX in America.
A subsequent statement issued jointly by Honda and McLaren stressed that the immediate focus was on Formula 1: “On 16 May 2013, Honda announced its decision to participate in Formula 1 from the 2015 season, under a joint project with McLaren. This has led to a full, open and productive working relationship with McLaren. As Martin Whitmarsh has stated, many ideas have been discussed between McLaren and Honda colleagues.
"However, we both know how challenging it is to win in Formula 1, and we need to be 100 per cent committed to that task. Therefore, at this stage, all our focus is towards the development of the 2015 Formula 1 car and powertrain, and there are no plans for collaboration on other projects at this moment.”