2012 seems a distant memory; they had the best car, a livery full of sponsors and arguably one of the best driver lineups in distant memory but things have got desperate with the team struggling to score points. We take a look at McLaren’s struggles and why they are making the right steps to lift them back to the front of the grid again.
Brazil 2012, McLaren almost had the perfect weekend, Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole and led a McLaren 1-2, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was in close pursuit and with torrential rain continuing to pour he closed in on the McLaren pair. Hulkenberg eventually fought the pair for the lead until he collided with Hamilton; wiping the Brit out of the lead in his last ever appearance for McLaren. Jenson Button would go on to win McLaren’s last race to date beginning it’s longest winning streak in it’s history.
In 2013 McLaren retained Button and signed rising star Sergio Perez, the MP4-28 was a complete departure from it’s predocessor as McLaren looked to revolutionise it’s place on the grid. This transpired to be a mistake, in Australia both McLaren’s finished 9th and 11th, compare that to the 1st and 3rd they scored 12 months prior and it was obvious that the team were set to have a torrid season. 4th would be the teams best result courtesy of Jenson Button in Brazil and the struggling Sergio Perez would be replaced by McLaren junior Kevin Magnussen in 2014. McLaren would also announce the departure of it’s title sponsor Vodafone and a switch to Honda power for the 2015 with 2014 set to be a year preparing them for a return to factory status.
2014 would start much differently to 2013, with the new technical regulations McLaren had the best power unit on the gird courtesy of Mercedes and McLaren scored a 2-3 in the first race of the season. Kevin Magnussen was quick all weekend, he qualified 4th and trailed second place Daniel Ricciardo all the way to the chequered flag; the Australian would later be disqualified for being over the fuel flow limit. McLaren appeared to have made a significant step forward.
The double podium in Australia would be McLaren’s best result of the year, a resurgent William’s would constantly have the edge over the Woking based team and McLaren would have to settle for 4th in the constructors title battling in the midfield. McLaren would make yet another driver change for the 2015 season ahead of it’s switch to Honda power, they would sign Fernando Alonso. McLaren would now have 2 Formula One world champions in it’s stable and factory status, things were looking up for McLaren.
Winter testing however would prove to be a challenge, the car was unreliable and the team were unable to rack up the mileage, their new star driver Fernando Alonso crashed heavily at turn 3 in Barcelona and suffered concussion writing him off for the season opener in Australia. Kevin Magnussen now McLaren’s reserve driver would step in for the 2-time champion but thanks to the Honda engines poor reliability he was unable to take the start when his car ground to a halt on his out-lap. The Australian Grand Prix suffered many retirements but the Jenson Button was unable to score points despite there being only despite their being only 11 finishers. This would characterise their season, poor reliability and poor power would mean McLaren would rarely score points even when Alonso returned to the car. The McLaren Honda partnership would finish 9th in the constructors on it’s debut and begin a dark period for the team. The team would also lose key sponsors along the way including Hugo Boss and Esso, the car was slow, sponsors were leaving and two champions were struggling to score points.
Another two uncompetitive seasons with Honda power and personnel changes including Ron Dennis leaving the McLaren Group and Stoffel Vandoorne replacing Button, McLaren decided to abandon Honda in favour of Renault as they looked for immediate gains back up the grid. McLaren boasted to have the best chassis but with a frustrated Fernando Alonso unable to to compete at the front it resulted in some public complaints about the partnership. McLaren were under pressure to perform or run the risk of losing it’s top team status.
Things looked to be on the up, Fernando Alonso finished 5th in the opening race of the 2018 season with Vandoorne joining him in the points with Alonso boasting over team radio “Now we can fight!”. The team found themselves consistently in the points but had not proved that they had they had the best chassis on the grid and were at best midfield. Tim Goss, the teams technical chief would soon leave the team as McLaren looked to restructure its technical department. With the recent announcement that McLaren have signed Toro Rosso technical director James Key who will join the team no earlier than 2019; there is a lot of optimism that McLaren can make gains back up the grid, but this wasn’t enough to retain Fernando Alonso. Alonso would announce that he would step away from the team in 2019, the team had lost it’s last asset for it to claim top team status.
Losing the pressure and demands of a world champion in a team in the process of a restructure is perhaps what McLaren needs, it takes them out of the spotlight and they can make the changes they need without being under too much scrutiny. Alonso’s replacement is Carlos Sainz, a highly regarded driver who has time on his side, he has already 4 years of experience despite being only 24. His announcement helps bring a buzz to the team who hasn’t often had good news to announce over the past few seasons, McLaren needs a fresh start which may also be what Stoffel Vandoorne needs, McLaren announced that 18-year-old Lando Norris would replace Vandoorne in an all new, young driver lineup. In Sainz they have a team leader with a good amount of experience, proven speed and plenty of hunger. In Norris they have an up and coming rookie who is willing to learn and won’t cause disruption to the team, McLaren have an exciting driver lineup.
In addition to sponsors gained this year including Dell and Petrobas; it would be no surprise to see Estrella Galicia 0,0 to join McLaren with Carlos Sainz and if the results follow on track then it won’t be long before McLaren’s sponsor list grows. McLaren have also resigned Pat Fry as it’s engineering director while it waits for James Key to join the team, Pat Fry has previously worked with McLaren before so it wont take long for him to settle in the team.
McLaren are having one of it’s darkest periods in its history but it’s starting to implement positive changes and a buzz is starting to form around the team for the first time for quite a while. McLaren will compete at the front again, it will take time but if anyone can; it’s McLaren.
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