[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] McLAREN: ANOTHER DIFFICULT YEAR

2018 has been a roller coaster for McLaren. The British squad began the season with high hopes, with its MCL33 featuring a striking, retro-styled livery and power from new partner Renault Sport.

The new car fuelling confidence, despite McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown refusing to be drawn on when the team would win again.

SOUNDBITE (English) ZAK BROWN,
CEO, McLAREN RACING:
“Well, I think we’ve got a very good race car. I don’t think any of us will know the answer to that question until we get deep into testing, and really the start of the year in Australia.”

But across the first 10 events, McLaren secured just three double points finishes. Fernando Alonso, though, has picked up the pieces – taking a second-straight eighth place, at Silverstone, in his 300th GP start.

And while its 48-point tally is light years ahead of where it was with Honda after 10 rounds last year – it’s just 16 ahead of its best 10-round haul with the Japanese manufacturer in 2016.

… certainly not what the team expected when it launched the new car.

SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“I think it’s an important moment for McLaren after a couple of years not winning the championship, or not fighting for the championship, it’s time to come back to that position.”

McLaren’s lack of progress has been blamed on instability over the past few years, including recent changes with former racing director Eric Boullier now gone. Along with its matrix management system that forces employees to report to multiple bosses.

And a still yet-to-be-identified aerodynamic issue – the team using trial and error at Grands Prix with the windtunnel yet to provide insight.

Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne’s career also hangs in the balance – the 26-year-old still yet to outqualify Alonso this year or make it to Q3; scoring 8 points to the Spaniard’s 40… five times the haul.

And while it’s likely young gun Lando Norris will be handed a race seat for 2019, Alonso could yet join him to complete the line-up.

… given his Toyota drive in the World Endurance Championship makes it difficult for him to compete with its archrival Honda in Indycar – putting the final leg of his Triple Crown dream on hold until at least 2020.

McLaren is also a passion project for Alonso.

SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"I grew up looking at Ayrton and Alain Prost racing on TV and now to come back to this partnership is very attractive.”

The Spaniard rejoined the squad from Ferrari in 2015 – after a disastrous initial campaign in 2007, that was marred by his ugly fight with then-rookie Lewis Hamilton, and the team’s Spygate scandal, for which the FIA fined the team $100 million US dollars.

SOUNDBITE (English) RON DENNIS,
McLAREN, 1981-2016:
“I do not accept that we deserved to be penalised, or our reputation damaged in this way."

Germany will be Alonso’s eighth race in eight weeks, with five-straight between Canada, and Great Britain – including Le Mans - and only he will know whether keeping that pace up into 2019 is doable… 

But, in these difficult times – McLaren needs expertise behind the wheel to earn maximum points. And if it can convince Alonso to stay for another year it should… before handing over to the next generation.

It’s time for McLaren to power out of the mire.