In what is commonly agreed the biggest F1 car design mistake in recent years, McLaren ditched their MP4-27 at the end of 2012 for the radical new design of the MP4-28. Martin Whitmarsh who was team principal at the time was repeatedly asked during the opening part of the 2013 season whether a decision to revert to the 2012 car could be made.
As the summer break approached, Whitmarsh explained to Autosport that in his view the car finishing the 2012 season had set expectations artificially high. “At the end of last year, some of the developments over performed. We were actually over delivering at the track”.
Whitmarsh also revealed that McLaren were confused by the readings they were getting from the CFD and wind tunnel tests. “That was another thing that has exacerbated this situation. The real  car was actually better than the wind tunnel [model].”
McLaren have not won a race since Jenson came home first in the 2012 season finale in Brazil and Ron Dennis was questioned about this at the recent Abu Dhabi GP. “There was no regulation change [for 2013]. It was not the right decision to make a new car and it was not the right decision not to immediately revert to that car after the first Grand Prix. That was a real point at which the company made a mistake. We should have reverted to [the 2012] car and we should have developed that car and then we would have not lost, instead of constantly pursuing something that, with the benefit of hindsight, was fundamentally flawed.”
Whilst the Honda power unit has been the focus of McLaren’s woes on track in 2015, Jenson Button warned the team at the last race of this year that an improvement is required across the board and not just from Honda. “Hopefully next year we are much further up the grid and the package as a whole has improved,” Button said. “I think we all know we need to improve with the ICE and we need to improve with the deployment, but we also need to improve the car. The car is not the quickest car on the grid.
“There is a lot of work needed if we want to be fighting at the front, every area of this car – aerodynamics, the mechanicals of the car – there are so many areas that we think we need to improve.”
Given the demons which still haunt the MTC from decisions made in 2012/13, both Eric Boullier and Honda’s motorsport boss, Yasuhisa Arai are particularly careful to restate that the 2016 power unit and chassis are a continuation of the 2015 design philosophy.
Boullier says tests show that that the MP4-31, “is already delivering more performance” than this year’s design. “In terms of the car, most of it will be changed, but it doesn’t mean we change the philosophy of the car and as we are currently talking now our car for next year is already developing more performance than this year’s car.”
Yasuhisa Arai concurs: “As Eric says, our concept or our philosophy is carried over, but a completely new engine, right now, is under development.”
Clearly Honda are restricted to ‘redesigning’ just 32 components of the FIA designated 66 within the power unit. So wholescale change is not possible.
Further, ex-Red Bull aerodynamic guru – Peter Promdromou – is now in the second year with the team will have be able to influence the chassis design from the off – unlike last year.
When asked about the progress this year, Ron Dennis was candid. “We have to dig deep, take the criticism and work that bit harder, but it is most definitely going in the right direction. Not so much here at the circuit, but on our test beds in Japan and in the wind tunnels [in Woking]. We’re very focused, but intend to under promise and over deliver.”
What would big Ron give for a car ‘over performing’ and ‘over delivering’ on track in 2016.
Finally, TJ13 would like to remind its readers of one of the contender’s for F1 paddock quote of the year. Responding to Eddie Jordan’s scathing criticism or arrogance at the top of McLaren, Dennis said: “I consider Formula One a bit of a family. Families live in villages, villages always have a village idiot and he fits the bill perfectly”.