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McLaren will replace Mercedes as champions, predicts Dennis

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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren will be the team that topples dominant Mercedes as Formula One world champions, chairman Ron Dennis predicted on Monday.

Honda-powered McLaren have not won a grand prix since 2012 while Mercedes, with triple champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, have been victorious 36 of 43 since the start of the V6 turbo hybrid era.

This weekend's showcase Monaco Grand Prix has been won by championship leader Rosberg for the last three years, although McLaren are historically the most successful team in the principality with 15 triumphs.

"I honestly believe that the next world champions after Mercedes will be McLaren," Dennis told the BBC. "We'll get to that goal before other people.

"It is challenging but I have a firm belief in the technical competence of our people and a firm belief in Honda."

Former champions McLaren, the most successful team after Ferrari in the history of the sport, have scored 12 points from five races this season compared to Mercedes' tally of 157. Ferrari are second with 109 and Red Bull third on 94.

Honda returned in 2015 as McLaren's partners but were plagued by unreliability and a lack of power.

This year has seen improvement, with Britain's Jenson Button scoring in the last two races and Fernando Alonso sixth in Russia and reaching the final phase of qualifying in Spain.

Dennis said next year's rules revamp represented an opportunity.

"The 2017 regulations level the playing field and it is enough time for us to catch up with Honda, so I think we'll have a good chance next year," he said.

Renault, who power Red Bull although the units are badged as Tag Heuer, expect a big step up after testing their new specification engine last week.

Renault F1 operations director Remi Taffin predicted a gain of around half a second a lap and said the new unit could be taken to Monaco.

"We had originally planned to use the new version in Canada when the current units are scheduled to be removed from the cycle, but if we can get the units together and completely validated by Monaco we will use the ones available at this race," he said.

Red Bull won in Spain with 18-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen, the sport's youngest winner.

Ferrari have also closed the gap on Mercedes since last year, and believe they should have won already this year with more luck and reliability.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)


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