By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
A relationship rekindled in 2015 saw strong potential last season with Honda and McLaren. The Woking-based team finished the year sixth in points, with two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso scoring as high as fifth twice en route to 10th in the driver’s championship. Jenson Button finished as high as sixth in Austria, but a lack of consistent pace relegated him to 15th overall.
A wild offseason sees Button take a leave away from the sport for 2017 and he is set to be replaced by 2015 Formula 2 champion (formerly known as GP2) Stoffel Vandoorne. The 24-year-old Belgian subbed for Alonso last year when the Spaniard was declared unfit to race following a horrific crash in Australia – Vandoorne out-qualified Button and finished 10th on the day, scoring a lone point in his F1 debut.
Also, Ron Dennis is officially out, Zak Brown is in at McLaren and a wealth of new identity changes have already begun. The obvious being the car label of ‘MP’ (which stood for Marlboro Project) dropped and the newest creation being called the MCL32.
Loads of anticipation came to McLaren as all of the changes showed through, but preseason showed a severe setback with Honda power and now doubts run over the program.
|No. 2||Stoffel Vandoorne||(Belgium)|
|No. 14||Fernando Alonso||(Spain)|
|Race Director||Eric Boullier|
|Chief Operating Officer||Jonathan Neale|
|Executive Director||Zak Brown|
Facing an Uphill Battle
The Honda concerns are real and brought on rumors that McLaren has reached out to Mercedes. Additionally, Alonso’s contract expires at the end of the season and is likely to be in high demand by several teams. If McLaren can’t get into a highly competitive form, expect Alonso to find a new home.
The little bit that was shown in testing at Barcelona had McLaren ahead of only Sauber, who is running an outdated Ferrari power plant from last season. As mentioned, the reliability of Honda came into question following an atrocious 425 total laps completed, by far the worst of any team on the grid.
If Honda can right the ship, McLaren can challenge alongside Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault. However, McLaren is growing impatient and if the performance lacks much longer, there may be no chance for Honda come back.
One of the most storied teams in F1 history, McLaren is likely to muddle in the back due to likely issues that will plague the team early on. The staff, the budget and resources are in place for success, the big question is – when will it finally turn around for them?