It had been hoped cutting ties with Honda would mean a return to form for McLaren … but there are no silver bullets in Formula 1.
The raw numbers show the british squad has had its best season in years, and have almost five times as many points as they did this time last year … a lot of that down to new engine partners Renault.
Hopes were high at the launch of the new MCL33 … decked out in McLaren’s traditional papaya orange.
SOUNDBITE (English): STOFFEL VANDOORNE,
F1 DRIVER, McLAREN:
“I think it looks great, obviously again a big change for the team over the winter with the change to Renault, the Renault engine. Yes, I think everyone's massively looking forward, there's a big buzz around the factory.”
McLaren boss Eric Boullier, though, kept expectations that the engine switch might trigger an immediate jump to the front of the field, tempered.
SOUNDBITE (English): ERIC BOULLIER,
FORMER RACING DIRECTOR, McLAREN:
"You have to be optimistic always but realistic at the same time, so there is a challenge, the competitive level is quite high so there will be a lot of fighting on track. It's a new relationship we're entering into with Renault. We have a lot to come and I think a lot more to come in the future."
But after a strong start in Melbourne - where Fernando Alonso wasn’t far off the podium in fifth - the orange cars have been more mid-field contenders than podium threats. And there have been changes behind the scenes, too.
Eric Boullier is gone, replaced as sporting director by former IndyCar star Gil de Ferran. The design department also lost chassis chief Tim Goss in April, and is now embroiled in a messy standoff with Toro Rosso over the services of James Key.
Its biggest asset - Alonso - is also no certainty to race on into 2019. With turmoil behind the scenes in the design department, it’s uncertain whether the orange cars will move up or down the field when the season resumes.