So, the white smoke is up and another bout of infighting within McLaren has been resolved – at least for now.
Fernando returns to the MTC to partner Jenson Button for 2015 and begins with a DNF on day one – as his microphone failed as the Spaniard was to answer his first question. Jenson’s contract was only finalised last night whilst Alonso’s was sometime earlier, both are on two year deals, and Dennis claims he ‘insisted on this’ for Jenson..
This leaves Magnussen and Vandoorme out in the cold for 2015, unless as TJ13 reported was on the cards in June, McLaren complete the purchase of one of the grid back marker teams – which have since ceased to function. However, Ron Dennis made particular note of the fact that Honda will be playing an active role in nurturing young Formula One drivers for the future.
If just nine teams form the field for Formula One in 2015 – then all the driver seats are now accounted for.
2015 F1 Drivers and Teams
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat
Williams – Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen
McLaren – Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button
Force India – Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez
Toro Rosso – Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr
Lotus – Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean
Sauber – Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson
Ron Dennis claimed the team’s decision had been delayed until the WMSC had met in Doha, and the possibility of three car teams for 2015 had been resolved. However, this meeting took place on December the third and further, Eric Boullier was categorical back in Monza when questioned about the likelihood of three car teams. “I don’t think we’ll go to eight teams and three cars per team next year and definitely not in such a short-term notice”.
Then in Singapore, the Frenchman stated, “The driver is the easiest to get on board, you know – the chassis and the logistics of the third car, the people around it, we would need about six months’ notice.”
The Doha meeting appears a convenient smokescreen.
However, McLaren have cooled the idea of ‘investing’ in a customer team such as Manor GP or Caterham, until they receive the necessary reassurances the regulations will be relaxed. Despite grandiose ambitions – Haas F1 is in a similar position.
Despite the diversionary tactics from McLaren over selecting the right driver for the long term, TJ13 has consistently asserted there was never a decision to be made when choosing between Magnussen and Button. Since the summer break, Jenson scored 66 points to the Dane’s dismal 18. And without Kevin’s 18 point haul from his second place in Australia, he would have finished behind Raikkonen and ahead of only the Renault and Ferrari customer car team drivers.
This smokescreen has proven to have its worth though, Jenson dropped his pants publically in Austin as he declared he would significantly reduce his remuneration demands, to stay with the team from Woking. TJ13 has learned the British driver is guaranteed only around 20% of his previous contractual arrangement, though there is a performance related element which could see him earning similar amounts to those of 2014.
Yet the big story is that Fernando has failed to influence Big Ron as to whom his team mate will be. When questioned in the Brazil FIA drivers’ press conference whether he would recommend Jenson as his team mate for 2015, the usually silky smooth tongued Spaniard – was lost for words – when a simple evasive response could have easily been made.
However, Ron Dennis surprisingly returned the matter of the division ridden 2007 season for McLaren, and apportioned a large amount of blame to Hamilton, highlighting his “immaturity”. Dennis believes, “If you go along the line of – who struck the first blow? – I would say Lewis had his role to play in starting this process that escalated”.
It was a season where McLaren literally threw away the championship – in a fashion maybe not seen before in Formula One history.
Dennis claimed at the media event this morning, “I can safely say, therefore, that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team.”
However, Ron’s efforts have been extensive and his patience long suffering as driver after driver – including Hamilton and Vettel – have failed to succumb to the British Bulldog’s charms; no wonder he is clearly relieved, and McLaren like Ferrari will field two world champion drivers for 2015.
“Unfinished business” was how Dennis described the return of the Spanish prodigal son, though the more Machiavellian mind may wonder what exactly that could look like.
TJ13 has again been informed that there will be no addition sponsored name in the McLaren Team name entry for the FIA Formula One Season 2015. It will be McLaren Honda. This site revealed that no additional title sponsor would be added to the McLaren 2014 entry – this very week last year. And despite a number of ‘vague’ references to ‘sponsors’ made by Dennis and Boullier during the early part of the season – they were careful never to claim a ‘title’ sponsor was in the offing.
“Domination” was another of the Dennis themes, as he sets the benchmark high for what has been a Formula One team dominating little but its own grid slot. Dennis also revealed that Jenson believes he can “kick Fernando Alonso’s ass”, and this pairing should certainly be better to watch than Ferrari’s 2014 offering.
TJ13 has leanred that mcLaren and Honda have been ‘working intensively together’ for over two years on creating the right synergy for chassis and engine, yet the pair have a bigger ask than did Mercedes in 2014, because the Mercedes customers have now had time to design better integrated chassis engine packages which will utilise more of the German PU than was possible for 2014.
Fernando appeared to sum matters up succinctly when he concluded, “We have time, hopes and the necessary resources. Let the legend return,” as he posed for a photograph standing in front of title winning McLaren cars of yesteryear.