MAY 11, 1998
The implications of Daimler Chrysler
Chrysler came very close to launching a major Formula 1 program back in 1993. The company had been involved in F1 through its Italian subsidiary Lamborghini and this program led to increased Chrysler involvement. In mid-1993 Chrysler bosses Bob Eaton and Bob Lutz decided to take the plunge and asked McLaren to build a car with which to assess the Lamborghini V12 engine, to see if it might become a top-level engine. The car was tested during the summer of 1993 by both Mika Hakkinen and Ayrton Senna and a verbal agreement was reached between Eaton and McLaren's Ron Dennis for a program to be started.
McLaren later decided to join forces with Peugeot and the sudden switch of direction left Chrysler without the possibility of doing a deal with a top F1 team. The Lamborghini V10 program was cancelled by furious Chrysler management, although in the years which followed it was clear that Chrysler still felt that F1 was a valuable marketing tool if the right opportunity were to arise.
It is ironic that five years after the McLaren-Lamborghini debacle, Chrysler has merged with Daimler-Benz, the parent company of McLaren's current engine supplier. Logic dictates that Chrysler could very simply and easily get into F1 racing by using a rebadged Mercedes V10. This would be competitive and would guarantee that both Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz could exploit F1.
It is also an idea that would appeal to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone because the current McLaren-Mercedes domination is not likely to be threatened in the next couple of years. A Chrysler engine supply would produce a competitor for McLaren. The idea would probably be opposed by McLaren which does not really want the competition.