McLaren’s year of transition before Honda reunion

2014 F1 season preview

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With less than two weeks to the start of the season, questions remain over exactly how McLaren’s F1 team will be set up. But one thing is for sure: steps are being taken to prevent a repeat of their dismal 2013 campaign.

The most significant change is Ron Dennis’s re-assertion of his influence over the Formula One team, which he previously ran until 2008. Work has already begun on a re-formed management structure.

This began with the arrival of Eric Boullier from Lotus as racing director. The team have remained silent on the destiny of Martin Whitmarsh, who served as team principal for the last five seasons.

A further appointment is expected which will see another person occupying a space on McLaren’s organisational chart above Boullier and below Dennis.

McLaren endured win-less seasons in the Dennis era, as recently as 2006. But in 2013 they failed even to finish on the podium, something which hasn’t happened since 1980, the year of Dennis’s original takeover of the team.

Last year’s frustrations didn’t just take place on the track. Ahead of the end of their Vodafone title sponsorship deal McLaren declared a replacement would be announced on December 2nd.

The date came and went without any news, and when the team’s new car was revealed this year the largest logos on the bodywork said ‘MP4-29’. There’s been no sign yet of a new title sponsor.

McLaren over-reached with the MP4-28 last year, believing they needed to be more ambitious than producing a mere evolution of the successful 27. But having their fingers burnt hasn’t discouraged them from taking risks. Their latest driver hiring is a clear sign of that

After failing to find a place for development driver Kevin Magnussen at another team this year (Whitmarsh said an agreement was reached with another team who then nixed the deal) McLaren took the surprising decision to make room for him in their own line-up by jettisoning Sergio Perez after a single season.

Whether that turns out to be an inspired or flawed decision, you can’t deny their bravery. And Magnussen has looked handy in testing so far.

They have also pushed the envelope when it comes to car design. Their flared rear suspension, designed to make up for the loss of the lower beam wing and make the diffuser work more effectively, is one of the most eye-catching developments on any of the new cars.

But whatever the year holds for McLaren it is going to be a transitory campaign. They have a single year left with long-time engine partners Mercedes during which they have to get to grips with a radical new engine configuration before changing over to Honda power next year.

Preparations are already well underway for the historic reunion of one of F1’s great team-and-manufacturer combinations. Even so, the new management will expect considerably better than fifth place in the constructors’ championship.

McLaren’s F1 record

Championship position91024563313238796251122111122444412223352311232235
Pole positions000000112086000000322015151210110001121172021738841180

Over to you

Do you expect McLaren will bounce back in 2014? And how well will Magnussen handle the opportunity he has been given? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “McLaren’s year of transition before Honda reunion”

  1. Looking at the graph, as I glanced over 2007 I thought there must be some kind of error.
    But then I guess I just forgot about the whole ‘spygate’ incident.

    1. Perhaps there should be a dotted line which indicates what their points would have been if they weren’t revoked. The data point at zero is not reflective of the performance of the car that year.

      1. To be fair 2012 wasn’t a true reflection of the cars performance; they still managed to mess that year up!

      2. But it is reflective of their result in the championship. They were disqulified, scored 0 points for the year, and started the 2008 season with car number 22 and 23, the highest numbers in the field, as was the numbering system.

        Yes, 0 is not reflective of the performance of the car that year, but 0 was the result

        1. On a similar note, its not anyone’s fault, just the nature of the change in points systems over the year, but I find the points graphs really irritating to get any kind of perspective over. Especially for the teams that have not been going as long as McLaren. I tend to filter it out .

          Also, 0 points might not be reflective of the performance of the car, but 8 wins and 8 poles does give a clearer picture.

    2. Am I the only one who can’t see the charts? It’s already happened in a few previous articles, too.

      1. OK, for reference, it was caused by a Chrome extension named “Text URL Linker”, which makes non-link text URLs into links.

  2. I just hope that the situation with Renault will have given Honda a huge incentive to put the resources in to the engine development and get things right and be on schedule.

    If anything, I just hope it will stop any complacency about the challenge they face coming back in to F1 and have McLaren be competitive early on….

  3. On the subject of engines I read a interesting article in a German magazine which stated that Renault did not get the reconizion or credit for its share in the four titles . It was always how good Newey Vettel Horner or the car was and you hardly heard the Renault name. Now it is all Renault’s failure which is highlighted in every article and it is only mentioned in hindsight that Red Bull may be contributing to the problems. Some of the other Renault teams clocked up a lot of milage maybe not at breaknecking speeds but at least it shows the engine can run reasonably reliable.

  4. The most significant change is Ron Dennis’s re-assertion of his influence over the Formula One team

    And this is a good thing???

    When was the last time Dennis delivered anything significant to McLaren? Oohh, that’s right, a $100M fine in 2007!!

    Before that? Oohh, that’s right, 1998!!!

    Whitmarsh performed better during his time as team principal that Dennis did in the preceding 5 years!

  5. So how will Honda and McLaren handle the of february deadline on engine homologation? Can Honda develop their engine all year and then homologate it next year?

    If so, if a manufacturer does really bad, wont it just stop competing a year and then “relaunch” with a freshly homologated engine? Really the only metric that is critical to these engines with the current rules is(hp/kg)/km of fuel.

  6. I don’t expect the transitory year to be much better than the year that has passed, and it’s natural after the transformation they have experienced ever since key people left them in the end of the botched 2012 campaign, even if as rightly written in the article McLaren still is with Mercedes. In my view it’s Mercedes & Williams at the top then FI and finally McLaren.

    1. I can’t see any improvement until Button retires.

      1. Yes, I’m sure retiring the driver who has scored more points for the team than any other driver in the last 4 years will be a great help. I know, let’s bring back the guy who scored less points than Button – that makes sense!

  7. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    5th March 2014, 17:31

    QUESTION – Are McLaren actually going to have a title sponsor in 2014? Is it compulsory? McLaren have already released all of their team kit (unlike Williams who have also yet to release their title sponsor), and it is all rather plain. Rather worrying, I find the MP4-29 badges annoying…

    1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
      5th March 2014, 18:48

      I love the MP4-29 badges!

    2. Apparently there could be some kind of announcement from McLaren tomorrow. Whether that be title sponsor- or management-related, I don’t know.

      What makes me think they won’t have one is pretty obvious, and as you said: they’ve released team kit already without a title sponsor.
      But then on the other hand, the “MP4-29″s are just as obvious placeholders as HRT’s “This is a cool spot” and “This could be you” in 2011. And the kit the team personnel wore in testing didn’t have a McLaren logo on it, unlike the kit they’re selling, so there is some uncertainty.

      I suppose it isn’t compulsory to have one for McLaren, but they haven’t not had a title or primary sponsor (Emirates 2006) since the pre-Yardley days, so it would be strange!

      Just to add, Williams are also rumoured to be revealing their new livery tomorrow.

  8. You can clearly see the Hamilton/Hakkinen/Senna effect on the pole positions!

    1. You can see the Jenson effect as well.

      1. Jenson effect? Please enlighten me coz I can’t see it. @todfod

        1. coz I can’t see it

          @pmccarthy_is_a_legend – Precisely.

          1. Well, if you look at the thing that actually matters, points, then you’ll see the Jenson effect.

            Honestly, why don’t they put up a graph showing who has the most ear rings or who has the coolest hat? That way it will be something else Hamilton can win at alongside the pointless pole positions.

            Or better yet, why not show pole position to win conversion ratios?

  9. When I was young, there was a team called Ligier.

    They used to have a “transition” year every single year.

    1. Ah Ligier, the maddest of all the mad French Equipes, how we miss you!

  10. Personally cant wait for the mclaren/honda partnership to be back in f1 again, my only hope is they have an exceptional/exciting driver we can cheer on, weather that will be kevin magnusson time will tell, dont think it will be jenson unfortunately…….

    1. I’m going to assume that this year is the year for MAG to get acclimated to the team while next year the addition of either ALO or Vandoorne if he has another good year this year, and perhaps Ross.

      1. I’m going to assume that this year is the year for MAG to get acclimated to the team while next year the addition of either ALO or Vandoorne

        You and McLaren can keep on wishing! ALO is set to retire a Ferrari man. Has said it plenty of times and honestly he wouldn´t move back to McLaren after how he´s been treated there! Plus the UK press had a nice go at him for Hockenheim 2010 so I can´t see it happening. Why go back for more?

  11. Nick Jarvis (@)
    5th March 2014, 19:21

    I wonder if McLaren is still super keen on running the Honda engines bearing in mind the Merc performance. Presumably Honda is paying McLaren to run the engines, but they could turn out to be bloody terrible. Worse than Renault. Perhaps they have a buy-out clause if they don’t achieve a certain level of horse power, or fuel efficiency.

  12. Is there any way McLaren could back out of Honda if they have a phenomenal season with Merc PUs? I would hate to see them have good pace with the Mercs then swith to Honda and experience what Renault are dealing with. Its understood they have and extra year of research but in car testing has been theproblem from Renault. From what I understand is the Renault PUs worked well on the dynos or am I wrong?

    1. So you reserve room for a possibility that Renault designed a “power unit” that run like crap even on the dyno and went with it anyway? :)

  13. Instead maybe Renault powered teams end up switching to Honda?

  14. Here is an interesting thought… what if Honda is looking to become McLaren’s title sponsor as well as their engine supplier (a la Infiniti – Red Bull Racing)?

    They obviously would have to wait until next year to begin such a sponsorship publically, since McLaren is still using Mercedes engines this year. Also, it’s difficult to imagine a prospective title sponsor signing on for 2014, only to make way for Honda next year, hence the lack of a title sponsor so far.

    This all makes me think (hope) “Honda-McLaren” is going to be a thing next year. Honda would get much more commercial exposure from their F1 involvement, and it would even give them a chance to run the iconic Marlboro livery (minus the “Marlboro” company name, of course) that everybody loves, since I can see the red/white combo fitting with Honda’s . That said, I’d rather see them go with a classic papaya orange livery with white and black accents, and at least one little Kiwi logo somewhere on the car…

  15. As long as this season’s better than last season…

  16. @keithcollantine – unrelated to this specific post, but is it possible to implement something like Reddit’s upvote/downvote system within the comments of this wordpress run frontpage.
    I have a wordpress blog myself and it’s great for low profile type stuff but F1fanatic attracts a lot of commenters and I increasingly find myself having to wade through the “noise” when I want to find interesting things people have to say. Anything slightly controversial, like the Azerbaijan article two below this, is a perfect example. Anonymous upvotes from the community would bring the cream to the top.

    1. This. Most of the time I find it overwhelming to come back and follow the discussion for this very issue.

  17. @Keith: Please make diagrams with double scale on the Y-axis, so it will be possible to see the details of the 3 lower curves also. Because of the point scale You can only tell the other 3 graphs, by putting Your cursor over them, and if two of them are the save value, often You can only see one of them.
    That said, I think that it is clear that McLaren have had a recent history of switching between a good year and a bad year. And the great news is that we are in for a good year.
    I hope Magnussen will give Button a hard time keeping up, and I hope that McLaren will concentrate on reliability at first, because this is what will bring the most points or the least loss of points in the first part of the season. This seasons start will be dominated by the old saying: “To finish first, first You must finish!”

    1. Madwinchester
      5th March 2014, 23:31

      Untick the “points” option and the Y axis will adjust to give a better view of the other 3 stats.

  18. Nicki Glazzard
    6th March 2014, 6:19

    Kevin Magnusson will be fine,he wouldn’t be where he is if he wasn’t capable,or the team wouldn’t of given him the ride.

  19. I still believe their points of 2007 should be reflected because,
    1, They scored the points.
    2, The payment they received from FOM for their constructors points, did form part of their fine to Max Mosley, so they FIA did acknowledge that they scored the points.

    I still believe that fine to be the most ridiculous, as Max fined a participant more than the entire value of the rights to the F1 championship which Bernie paid.

  20. McLaren are in a great position to show they are still a top-class team. It’ll be great to watch Magnussen in a good F1 car. I think he and Grosjean (if the Renault engine gets sorted), will have very good seasons.

  21. So no team wants Magnussen just on merit.

    And Macca then takes him, seems like an uncalculated risk.

  22. perfect partner with honda

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