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?