McLaren’s result in Melbourne: Fernando Alonso finishing fifth, Stoffel Vandoorne ninth was cause to celebrate last week, as the squad’s first double points finish since Hungary 2017.
But, it also highlighted how far the historic team had fallen over the past three seasons, as just the seventh time since 2015 it had managed to get both drivers into the top-10.
It was, naturally, a huge relief for Alonso, as the Spaniard’s equal-highest result since re-joining McLaren.
The 36-year-old able to fight again in F1, care of a new power unit partnership with Renault, the French marque that took him to two-straight world titles. And Red Bull Racing to three wins last year.
“This is only our first race together with Renault, and some updates will come in the next few races. We can start to look ahead a little bit. and Red Bull will be the next target,” he said.
The energy returned to McLaren in pre-season testing, its nightmare four years with Honda – three on track – finally at an end.
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.”
The squad again on its own trajectory, comfortable in the knowledge that it can build one of the best chassis in the pit lane.
… and with room to develop, McLaren sporting F1’s fourth biggest budget last year, 175 million pounds. Though that will have been affected by the split with Honda.
Regardless, the ambition is high, and with a three-year deal with Renault - the squad can aim medium-term for what it used to do best, climbing the podium.
SOUNDBITE (English) ZAK BROWN,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, McLAREN:
“Well, we hope to surprise some people. But we’ve won 20 world championships before, and so everyone back at the factory certainly knows how to win races. It’s been a while, too long. And we think we’ve got the drivers, the package, to be very competitive.”