McLaren is soon to be unleashed. 2018 will be a new era for the historic team – the third most successful in F1 history behind Ferrari and Williams, with eight constructors’ titles and 12 drivers’ championships care of iconic names Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton.
Gone will be the Honda power unit that held the squad back for three seasons, the Japanese manufacturer unable to deliver the required level of performance and reliability despite four years of tireless work developing the complex 1.6-litre turbo V6 powerplant with its multiple energy recovery systems. A trio of fifth places its best results in that time, despite this generation’s most complete driver Fernando Alonso behind the wheel throughout.
And it’s a shame, for the McLaren-Honda name once stood for excellence. Senna and Prost stormed to 15 wins from 16 races in 1988, with a perfect set likely assured had Senna not tripped over a backmarker, the Williams-Judd of Jean-Louis Schlesser, at Monza. And now that magnificent legacy will be forever trashed, unable to be repaired.
That said, Renault will bring new life to McLaren after the pain of Honda – with the promise of stronger results, even if the French manufacturer’s power units are not quite at the level of rivals Mercedes and Ferrari. New qualifying modes planned for next season could change all that, though.
It’s an exciting time for the squad that has always exemplified that racer’s spirit, even before from its Formula One debut at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix. Again it has blue skies ahead of it just as it did under founder Bruce McLaren, with his story recently immortalised with the film McLaren (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5031332).
The 92-minute feature, much like the team, is fuelled by passion – with Bruce and the team’s story told from all angles, dating right back to the great man’s origins in New Zealand, where he suffered as a young boy from Perthes’ disease, a hip disorder that left one leg shorter than the other and required years of painful treatment. Once free of the affliction, his family’s garage business and shared love of racing saw him jump into a car and he never looked back.
The documentary not only uses historic footage and interviews with McLaren’s contemporaries including 1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti, compatriot Chris Amon and many others, but also a whole host of artfully created re-enactments. And it’s a fitting release, around the time of the squad’s imminent resurgence.
2018 will likely see the smiles return to those at Woking, England, with the great McLaren team expected to rejoin at least the midfield, if not be fighting for podiums and potentially more. But, now is a perfect moment to reflect on this glorious team’s past that began with one man’s passion to compete and win.
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