2018 is expected to be a year of progress at McLaren. For just the second time since 1995, when it launched with a driver lineup comprising Mika Häkkinen, Jan Magnussen and Nigel Mansell, the British squad has a new engine supplier – in Renault.
…the French manufacturer reuniting with its former star Fernando Alonso, who it took to two world titles, back-to-back in 2005 and 2006 during the monster V10 era.
It’s a winning combination, but with McLaren – at the very least – it’s set to be a step forward, its former power unit partnership with Honda dissolved after three seasons of poor performance and reliability.
Its legacy of four-straight championship doubles from 1988, destroyed.
But, despite the late transition – McLaren’s technical director Tim Goss is confident the team has overcome any integration issues with the Renault power unit…
"We had to reconfigure the chassis, change the cooling system and reconfigure the gearbox to make it fit. But we have managed that, in time, without any significant compromise to the chassis,” he said.
The expected upswing in performance is also set to have knock-on effects, igniting the teammate battle between drivers Alonso and young gun Stoffel Vandoorne – one hobbled by retirements last year.
SOUNDBITE (English) ERIC BOULLIER,
DIRECTOR, McLAREN RACING:
“Obviously it’s going to be a challenge, because both of them will be eager to do very well as they’re both very competitive, very talented.”
It’s a battle that will, no doubt, push the team forward – and if the chassis is as good as the team claimed throughout the Honda years - McLaren could even outshine Renault’s works team…
… with the potential to challenge Force India or even Red Bull Racing.
For the fans it may also involve a new look with Alonso hoping for a colour change from the orange run on last year’s MCL32 – to something closer to the traditional papaya hue run on his Indy 500 car.
SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“It was a great experience the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself or to challenge myself.”
Regardless, it’s a fresh start for one of the sport’s most successful teams. McLaren may have been stuck in a rut with Honda, but it’s since been set free. It’ll be all eyes on the squad in pre-season testing.