The Woking-based team has been linked as a contender to join up with Audi if the Volkswagen Group-owned company enters grand prix racing when new engine rules come in from 2026.

It has held exploratory talks with the German manufacturer but it suggests that the ball is now in VW’s court about what happens next.

It is understood that VW is considering two options for an F1 assault: an Audi push with McLaren or using its Porsche brand with Red Bull.

Speaking at a media event at McLaren’s Woking factory, Brown cheekily suggested that the Red Bull option appeared to be moving forward while the Audi situation remained unclear.

“I'm hearing they're going to do something with Red Bull on the Porsche front,” said Brown. “I think they've spoken with a handful of people on the grid and, as you would imagine, we have conversations.

“But in the short term, and medium term, we're very happy where we are [with Mercedes]. So we're going to just wait and see: are they going to enter the sport? Because I think that's not been definitively decided.

“If they do, we have a contract through this term. And naturally, we're going to evaluate where we are and who's in the sport, and then take a decision on what we're going to do in 2026 in due course.”

Zak Brown at Abu Dhabi GP 2021

McLaren switched to Mercedes engines last season as part of a long-term deal, and will stick with the German manufacturer until the end of the current rules cycle.

While it has long been questioned about whether or not a customer team can win a world championship, Brown is convinced about the possibilities.

“I think we can win with a Mercedes engine,” he said. “I know for a long time there's been this view you can't win with a customer engine. I think you can and we're very confident that our Mercedes power unit is identical to theirs. We've not seen anything to say otherwise.

“You are at a little bit of a disadvantage from an overall design concept, because they understandably get a view of what the architecture looks like. So there is a detriment to being a customer team. But it's not the power unit itself. It's the knowledge that you get by kind of having a first look [at the engine design].”

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