Just less than two years ago, Ron Dennis had aspirations to match Red Bull Racing who were then the dominant winning machine in Formula One.
Aside from neither having a ‘dominant winning machine’, McLaren and Red Bull at present have a lot in common. Both have problems with the engines their manufacturing partners are supplying, and now it appears McLaren’s frustration too is at a tipping point.
Thus far this year, Dennis and Boullier have remained positive in the face of what by Woking’s standards have been humiliating results. The talk has consistently been of ‘closing the gap’
CEO Jonathan Neale was wheeled out yesterday to face the music and he too resorted to the PR ‘Plan A’ when he insisted: “We have closed a gap of around 2.5 seconds, we’ve got two seconds to go, that is a huge way, but we knew it was going to be a difficult weekend with a circuit like this. But watch us over the next few races, ask us in two or three races time, I think there is a lot to come.”
Honda have seven development tokens left to change architectural aspects of their engine, though Neale reveals that is almost meaningless. “We have enough reliability issues to fix there that we can do without the tokens… I don’t think tokens is the issue at all, we just need time.”
Much of the talk post the race in Monaco was of Fernando Alonso’s apparent outburst on the radio, where he practically accused the team of being ‘amateur’.
However, the mask of Eric Boullier also slipped during the media rounds in the Montreal paddock. The Frenchman revealed the relationship between McLaren and Honda may not be all Woking would have had us believe.
“We [McLaren] keep talking about issues, and obviously we hope to be listened to more [by Honda].”
Eric quickly added, “They [Honda] do listen. We have discussions every day. I don’t want to go into anything in public”.
McLaren have gone to great lengths not to repeat the very public spat between Red Bull Racing and Renault Sport F1 and Boullier stresses this point: “Of course, it is easy to blame the partner, but as a partner we also have to be supportive. We need to help them to accelerate this recovery time.
“To be fair, they decided to join Formula 1 two years ago and it is not easy to be here and win. We just need to make sure we are properly equipped to do it.”
It is no great leap of speculation based on Boullier’s comments to suggest McLaren want Honda to put more effort into their programme. Eric continues, “There is some way to improve faster and we should go that path. In terms of timing, when you want to catch up you basically have to put more resources on the programme”.
Honda have been out of Formula One since the end of 2008 and the feeling in Woking is their lack of experience is telling. Boullier reasons, “If you want to do it short-term you need to bring more experienced resources”.
Resources McLaren clearly believe they have to offer.
“We have some software, IT, whatever it is, we have this experience at home, so McLaren can actually offer Honda support in this domain to help them shift resources.”
McLaren had to find an ‘independent’ engine supplier once Mercedes bought Brawn as their own ‘works’ team. However, the anguish Ron Dennis must be feeling at present, could masquerade as the kind of pain that could lead him to believe he is in need of a triple heart bypass.