McLaren face this year’s home GP at Silverstone with probably the bleakest outlook in their history and their last race win by Jenson Button in Brazil 2012 seems a very long time ago.
Speaking about McLaren F1’s current woes, Ron Dennis tells The Telegraph, “Well, one of the things that surprises everybody except for myself, because I’ve seen it before, is that we have made steady and measurable progress. And three or four races ago we knew that we would get to Canada and were going to at best plateau, because of the nature of the circuit”.
The next race up in Austria saw both McLaren drivers given grid penalties that saw them starting at the rear of the field because they had already used more than the entire season’s allocation of engines. Dennis though refuses to be despondent.
“But virtually every step that we’ve taken has moved us forward as predicted by the team, and we’re getting very good correlation with our calculations and our on-track performance, which is promising.
“Our commitment remains to win the world championship. That requires you to have laser focus on each aspect of the car, and everything has got to be the best of the best. Neither Honda nor ourselves expected the challenge to be quite as difficult as it has been. But they started with a clean piece of paper, not just in terms of the engine but also the research and development facilities, which are completely new”.
Given where the McLaren-Honda partnership is presently, this rhetoric from Dennis is heardly unexpected. However, Eddie Jordan accuses the Woking team boss of arrogance.
“You can say Honda is a mess. But so are McLaren”, Jordan explains in a BBC Q&A. “They have been a shadow of their former selves since they arrogantly stated that Lewis Hamilton would rue the day he left McLaren. Look how that has rebounded on them.”
“That arrogance is still there at the top of McLaren. They are hopelessly off the pace and anyone who thinks it is just the engine is deluding themselves. The engine is a lot of it, but there are lots of other issues there.
“I personally think the day McLaren started building road cars was the day they took their eye off the ball in F1, and I will be surprised if they ever come close to winning titles again while that road car programme is still going and while the current management structure is in place”.
Eddie Jordan is frequently a provocative voice in Formula One, but even by his standards these criticisms may appear a little too harsh.
As to 2016, Fernando Alonso suggested recently that McLaren should switch its development focus from this year to next.
Jonathan Neale, McLaren’s CEO disagrees. “It’s too early to consider switching attention to next year because the rules are evolutionary.
“There is a glide path into next year so we will be flat out until the last race, while still thinking about next year.
“Elements like the front wing, rear wing, floor and brake ducts – a large part of that will carry through in concept terms.
“So with that in mind, we have to keep pushing on this year.”