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Bigger budget McLaren aim for title sponsor in 2018

LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren will enjoy a bigger budget this season but a long-awaited title sponsor for the Formula One team will have to wait until 2018, newly-appointed executive director Zak Brown said on Friday.

Journalists use their mobile phones to photograph McLaren's new MCL32 Formula One car at its launch in Woking, Britain, February 24, 2017. REUTER/Alan Baldwin

Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat holds a 50 percent stake in the team while Saudi-born businessman Mansour Ojjeh and recently ousted former boss Ron Dennis each have 25 percent.

Brown said Ojjeh and Bahrain’s Sheikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa had increased the budget in certain areas as the team, who last won a race in 2012, push to return to the top.

The former world champions, who have Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne as drivers, also stand to get more in prize revenue after finishing sixth last year. They were ninth in 2015.

“We have very wealthy owners who want to win. They are not going to let budget get in the way of us progressing up the field,” Brown told reporters at the launch of the team’s new-look orange and black MCL32 car.

“The partners that we do have make healthy contributions, Honda’s obviously a fantastic and big contributor to our racing team... and we have lots of other revenue streams inside McLaren Technology Group,” added the American.

“So budget-wise we’re healthy.”

The search for a title sponsor, which Brown has identified as a necessity, will take time however.

The American has introduced a number of big sponsors to the sport and McLaren in his previous job as head of CSM Sport&Entertainment and its JMI motorsport arm.

“No miracles were going to happen in 2017. Most companies, any big decisions they are making are taken by October, November, December at the latest,” he said.

“2018 is when we need to deliver a title partner. I already feel that pressure because it takes a year. So I am counting down the days.

“I haven’t really seen any new sponsor announcements on any car, including those that have won the championship for three years in a row,” added Brown, alluding to Mercedes.

Brown saw a brighter future under Formula One’s new owners Liberty Media, saying that McLaren was now a good story and so too was the glamour sport.

The season starts in Melbourne on March 26.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris