2018 will, no doubt, be remembered as a disappointing year for McLaren, despite great hopes for its Renault-powered MCL33 pre-season.
SOUNDBITE (English) ZAK BROWN,
CEO, McLAREN RACING:
“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.”
The season started strongly, with three double points finishes from the first four events; Fernando Alonso earning five straight top-10 results. But the Spaniard has scored just three times in the last nine races.
…with Stoffel Vandoorne’s last top-10 placing coming in April in Azerbaijan, with two points for ninth place. And the Belgian yet to outqualify his 2-time F1 World Champion teammate, dating back to Japan last year.
Vandoorne simply unable to build on the strength he developed in 2017… which he proudly spoke of pre-season.
SOUNDBITE (English) STOFFEL VANDOORNE,
F1 DRIVER, McLAREN:
“I think from a personal point of view, it was a tough start for myself. But then very good progress throughout the year, and I think near the end of the year, matching Fernando.”
And while McLaren continues to be haunted by a mysterious aerodynamic issue it can’t detect in the windtunnel, it has no stability behind the wheel into 2019 with Alonso stepping away from the sport…
His countryman Carlos Sainz replacing him as the de facto leader, while Vandoorne has been ousted by F2 young gun Lando Norris. And there’s a lot of pressure on the pair to deliver.
Singapore ahead should be better for McLaren, with mechanical grip far more important there than aero, bringing the drivers to the fore.
But like Marina Bay, the way back to the top for McLaren is a long and winding road.