Last night on US TV, former racing driver turned McLaren boss admitted that “last year was the worst year in the history of McLaren”.
Fair statement from the American, Zak Brown. Thus far everything has been pointed at the disastrous engine partnership with Honda. Brown promptly threw Honda under the bus during his first year in charge of McLaren. Instead of a works team, potentially challenging for the Championship in the near future, McLaren will be a customer or satellite team. And yet, McLaren’s line and desired public perception remains a positive one. Brown is still saying: “I think you’ll see us leap to the front in Australia”.
Over optimistic? Perhaps, but now Honda have gone and the endless pot of money that comes with it, we hear Brown admit for the first time that McLaren won’t be able to compete financially with the top two teams.
“It’s an expensive sport — we’re not able to compete financially with the top two teams. We’re still definitely one of the top four teams. We need to continue to improve there to put as much resource into our race team as possible. If we can get all of that right we’re going to start to move up the grid significantly.”
There is a huge gulf between the Mercedes / Ferrari sharp end, with Red Bull picking up the scraps. Anything short of beating Red Bull in 2018 could be seen as failure after the endless mantra of McLaren’s ‘amazing chassis’, let down by Honda.
But still, Brown trusts in his drivers and in particular Alonso. Do not underestimate the influence that the Spaniard has had with the changes for 2017 / 18 at McLaren.
“Fernando is very diligent, he’s very focused and very demanding of himself and the team. When Fernando comes into the garage you see everyone stand up a little more upright.”
Fairly quickly we’ll see if McLaren Renault will be a Red Bull beater, the winner of the budget restricted midfield or a complete disaster (again). Perhaps then Williams should start advising them on what it’ll be like existing through decade of decline?