Could it get any worse at McLaren? The Honda partnership over the last couple of seasons has yet to show the promise both parties had hoped for, while having top name drivers who were effectively relegated to the back of the grid. Surely 2017 couldn’t get any worse, could it?
With the departure of Ron Dennis, the team is entering a new phase of its life. Inbound is Formula One and McLaren ‘fan’ Zak Brown, once fancied as a possible replacement for Bernie Ecclestone and a leading figure in sponsorship deals for the sport.
The fandom starts really with the new colourscheme, with the famous orange returning in a big way on the car. The famous MP4 moniker has also been replaced, and Jenson Button has taken a step back from driving, replaced by highly rated Stoffel Vandoorne.
On paper things are sounding positive, but testing really didn’t live up to the expectations. Not only were they slow, reported to be 30kph down on the straights, but unreliable with a rumoured seven engine changes over the eight days of testing.
Sky Sports reported that vibrations from the engine were causing problems to the electrics, the team turning the power down to make sure they got some running.
Without a fix in Melbourne, it could even see a return to 2015 levels of performance. Back then in Australia they qualified at the back of the grid, and Kevin Magnussen didn’t even make it to the start line, breaking down on the warm up lap to the grid. It could be an unknown of the team, but points are certainly looking unlikely, and making it to the end of the race could be an achievement.
Fernando Alonso, now in the third year of a three year contract with the team has been openly critical about the situation with Honda. He has been very clear over the winter that the blame lies with the engine manufacturer, with the team ready to win with a different engine. He is a free agent for 2018, a with a love of the sport could see himself against Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes if things go his way.