McLaren is sinking, or is the shit simply stacking higher?
The McLaren/Alonso cooperation hasn’t had the best luck. Twice now.
The first stint was announced the 19th of December of 2005: Alonso signed a 3 year contract with McLaren and would be driving for team from the 2007 season on. He was to be partnered by rookie and McLaren protogé Lewis Hamilton. Alonso’s second race on April 19 2007 translated into a win, but the relationship with the team went downhill rapidly. A rocky year followed, littered with team tension, a less than optimal relationship with Hamilton, team-orders, Ferrari-McLaren spygate.
Alonso came back to McLaren in 2015, pushing Kevin Magnussen out of his seat. 2015 marked the return of the McLaren-Honda cooperation. Some thought it was genius for Honda to wait a year after the introduction of the engine regulations, under which making changes to a competing engine were difficult: not competing Honda could make all changes necessary to make sure they had a competitive engine. Unluckily, we all know Honda’s return was less than succesfull.
Alonso is serving a 3 year contract, and is well paid. Options for him to return to a more competitive team have been limited. However, the 3rd year is up, and Alonso is still ambitious enough to want more. The signs Alonso will be leaving at the end of the season are getting stronger, and him returning to Renault is now openly discussed.
On top of the ever-steeper dung-hill, shareholder Mansour Ojjeh is starting to voice his concern as well.
“The disappointment is huge, even for Honda,” Ojjeh told French Auto Hebdo. “We were promised a lot and are the first ones to be disappointed to offer so little. Honda have given their mea culpa, but that doesn’t make us look better.”
“We work on different scenarios, of which I cannot speak right now, but we are spending a lot of time and energy and meetings on finding a solution. And fast. We have a culture of victory and we cannot continue like this.” Ojjeh added.
“Fernando is a great driver who has suffered for two years.” Ojjeh explains McLaren’s eagerness to find alternative motivations, like the Indy 500, for this driver who is still estimated as one of the best.
“I am pleased and proud to see McLaren embark on a new adventure in IndyCar, more than 30 years after his last appearance, this time being associated with Andretti Autosport and Honda,” said Ojjeh. “The Indy 500 will be the only race we will contest in IndyCar this year, but we could do it again in the years to come and we could also achieve a full season in the IndyCar program.”
“Alonso wants the triple crown. I told him that he is crazy to go to Indianapolis, but we spoke to Juan Pablo Montoya who told us not to worry, that he will adapt easily. Fernando also wants to win Le Mans. In a personal capacity I would very much like McLaren to return to Le Mans, but Fernando wants to do it in LMP1. For the moment the priority is a good engine in F1.” Ojjeh concluded.
Alonso deserves a shot at the title, and the 2015 GP2 Champion Stoffel deserves a car which is able to score points. Chances of that are currently bleak. Yet, looking of the sums of money being put in the project, I am still a believer.
The question must be asked though, does this move to Indy signal an end to Alonso’s ambition for a third F1 title?
My opinion is that Alonso has essentially left the team and the Indy 500 deal was dreamed up as a smoke screen to hide that. No team would ever let their top driver, especially a 2 time WC miss Monaco. All your sponsors and potential sponsors are there. For a team like McLaren which is desperate for sponsorship, not to have Alonso meet existing and potential sponsors is a disaster.
The Indy 500 deal is indeed odd. Alonso has never spoken about wanting to do it it, unlike LeMans. For people on the right side of the Atlantic, they think of the Indy 500 as the race with the Unsers, Mansell, Fittapaldi and the Andretti’s. The unfortunate thing is that was 30 years ago. The Indy 500 today, which is part of the IndyCar series, is effectively a spec series. You buy a chassis from Dallara, then an aero kit package and engine from either Honda or Chevrolet. Now you have a team. You can’t build any chassis or aero components of your own and adjustments to the car are severely limited. The race itself hasn’t sold out in years. TV ratings for the race have been stuck around an average of 6M viewers for years. The Daytona 500 averages 12M
The drivers are largely a collection of nobodies. The few notable names are Sebastian Bourdais – remember him from Toro Rosso? Max Chilton, ex-Marussia and one of the worst F1 drivers in the last 15 years, and Juan Montoya who is only there because he lost his seat in NASCAR. Half the drivers that competed in IndyCar in 2016 didn’t compete in all the races and 25% of the drivers did 5 races or less. If you have the money – someone will let you drive.
I don’t buy the “I want to win the triple crown” BS from Alonso. He wants another F1 WC more than anything. It’s marketing BS from Zak “cut me and I bleed McLaren” Brown to mask what is really going on at McLaren – the team is crumbling and possibly may not survive.
And BTW. I think Alonso’s last F1 race for McLaren is Spain.
Can’t fault your logic Cab, brave call on his final GP.
As to Alonso or Vandoorne deserving titles, no they don’t. 1, Alonso already has two. 2, Stoffel is gifted but so are many who reached the summit but failed to achieve.
McLaren are failing catastrophically and much has been blamed on Honda but going back to the bullshit being spouted in 2013 when the deal was first announced, i mentioned on many forums it would not be a rerun of the glory years.
Honda entered F1 in the 80’s with a budget that dwarfed everybody. They tied up with Williams and McLaren – the best teams of the period – and employed Piquet, Mansell, Prost and Senna. It was a given they’d dominate.
Once Renault invested and the others caught up, Honda withdrew and since have been shockingly poor.
Today’s engine shares many traits with engines of he last quarter century. Too heavy, too thirsty, insufficient power and unreliable.
Alonso realised too late in 2014 that Ferrari had tired of his antics. They had Vettel signed and despite Alonso stating breaking his contract would mean penalties, Mattiacci freed him by confirming it wouldn’t be a hindrance to the team. They wanted him out and Alonso know his only option was McLaren. Hence the slanging match in Suzuka where he was told to foxtrot Oscar by Mattiacci
It was at this point Marchione was scything Montezemolo out of Maranello. The revolution began
Indy and their drivers are not nobodies just because you don’t like or follow them. Let’s be fair – it’s another part of the World and another series and that alone doesn’t make them worse. Alonso going to Indy is a brilliant move by marketing man Brown – at least for some period of time there will be a lot and positive publicity related to McLaren. Yes in one way or another it is a move to give Alonso something to keep him in a team but that has nothing to do with Alonso leaving unless you are trying to say that McLaren will be paying for Alonso going to Indy just to leave the team.
Alonso himself stated many times already he is going nowhere from McLaren this season. And for next season – Brown has told in the last interview (when asked about Alonso and Renault) that they have an agreement to wait until the summer (basically to give Honda few months) and then discuss next deal.
What makes people think that Alonso is the main issue in McLaren? Issue is the engine and Mansour Ojjeh has basically confirmed they are working on getting alternative PUs. McLaren have a decent car (Brundle has stated during the race some driver telling him after China that McLaren sticks in turns like Red Bull) – as soon as they have decent PU as well – then we can start talking about Alonso
“Alonso going to Indy is a brilliant move by marketing man Brown”
Only if your intent is to deflect what is actually going on at McLaren. McLaren gain nothing from Alonso going to the Indy 500. All that McLaren / Honda have done is stuck him in one of Andretti’s cars. As I mentioned IndyCar is a spec series, none of the teams build their own car or any of the components. For a company (McLaren) that prides itself on creating world-class engineering in its race and road cars, there is no point in being in a race series where you buy a chassis and aero package from someone else. Brown / McLaren tweeting that they may run a “full works team” in 2018 was laughable.
In regards to Ojjeh’s statement on the PU’s – who is going to help them. Ferrari – no. M-B has cooled to giving any assistance. That leaves Renault where you still have to deal wit RB. But if Renault is the only option – you might as well be in the works car rather than a customer car. And with Jolyon Palmer occupying one of those seats it would be an easy call for Renault to take on Alonso.
That is exactly the reason why McLaren wants a car at the Indy500. All the sponsors and media will look at that and not at the performance of the F1 team, if they can start their cars at Monaco.
If this strategy works, they will rent more racing cars and put them in the McLaren colors so that can take the attention away from the F1 team. Just let compete Alonso in touring cars or let him run a marathon instead of doing a GP, the team will have more media attention and a bigger chance of success.
OK except for the Indy 500, IndyCar races only start 22 cars, and 19 drivers ran the full season. Most of the remaining 16 raced only Indy, and the Indy GP.
You’ll notice Max Chilton finished 19th, Will Power missed a race and finished ahead of Max. So, he’s also one of the worst in IndyCar.
Barrichello fresh from F1 in 2012 competed full time and led a total of 3 laps. Granted he was no longer a great F1 driver, but if F1 drivers are so special, even the mediocre F1 driver should rise to the top in a league of nobodies.
Kind of agree, Mclaren must get rid of Honda to survive, simple as that. Honda has had 3 years at it and produced nothing. Would you still have your job if you failed for 3 years?
Or VPN of sales got a promotion.
It’s tough to see such talent wasting away and it’s clearly getting to him, bailing on the last lap if he’s not in the points? I am an Alonso fan but that’s sour grapes.
Just a thought…
JPM left McLaren on bad terms after the team effectively backed Kimi. His time in F1 was without doubt a story of underachievement.
I don’t doubt that JPM would love to humiliate Alonso – the man who McLaren signed to replace him at the end of 2005 for the 2007 season.
I’m certain Alonso will be able to pedal the car quickly but the finer nuances? Montoya raced ovals before he joined the F1 circus and returned to the States after his F1 foray…
For me, the greatest concern has always been that he is able to ‘walk’ away.
JPM would like to humiliate a person he is offering his help and support to, wouldn’t he? This is not some TV series man
Montoya is at the Indy 500 to win for Penske – not help Alonso who is driving for Andretti win.
On the track. What you forget is that in Indy there is not such rivalry when they are outside cars like in F1. That also means less politics. Montoya was the first one to offer help and advises for Alonso as soon as news came out. Of course, I’m not telling that Montoya is going to forget his goal for the race
Indy 500: Alonso out because of engine failure.
Monaco: Button wins crazy wet race.
Is it wrong that I don’t care what Alonso does? He’s rightly vexed and McLaren will do anything to indulge him in the hope of retaining his services, whether that’s Indy, Le Mans or the Oviedo Soapbox Derby.
I feel more sorry for Stoffel Vandoomed, who has demonstrated ample talent and patiently waited his turn only to end up driving a car with the worst F1 power unit since the Yamaha OX99.
One of the things that hasn’t been mentioned in all of this is Ron Dennis. He still holds 25% of McLaren’s stock. While I’m not knowledgeable in English corporate law – you have to wonder whether if the actions of Brown, Ojjeh and the Bahraini sovereign fund have significantly devalued McLaren – whether Dennis has any legal recourse which could lead to another buy-out attempt.
Finally there is also the financial situation that McLaren is in. It’s estimated that McLaren got around $75 – $80M in FOM payouts last year. That figure is column 1 and 2 plus the Constructors Champion bonus. With their sponsorship money it goes to around $110m – $120M. If they finish 9th this year you can knock around $10M from the FOM payout. Without the Honda money coming in, McLaren looks more like Force India. If McLaren and Honda do split, McLaren will get some form of compensation, but that will be a one-off that won’t last long. You then have at best a mid-field team.
Honda will bring a new engine map to the next race. McLaren will start to finish races midpack. From Canada Honda will bring a new ICE which is stronger and doesnt vibrate the car to pieces. MGUH will be more efficient and the ICE can use the fuel more efficient. They will be top 10 regulars end of summer.
If all goes fine with Honda’s plans. But even is all fine the goal already was to fight for Top3 regularly…
And Ferrari / M-B and Renault will all have major upgrades by then too. I don’t see McLaren progressing that much.