Alas, the irony of the winter tests for McLaren – swapping a failing Power Unit from Honda for a not a lot better Power Unit from Renault.
The 2017 divorce was amicable, to a degree. Honda would supply Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso (with big brother team assessing a possible switch themselves), and McLaren would take up the supply of Renault becoming their third customer team.
Yet we saw during the two winter tests in Barcelona; a Toro Rosso pounding out lap after lap unhindered by poor reliability using the Honda PU; and then the familiar sight of McLaren parked on the side of the track or sitting in it’s garage for hours at a time. Problems ranged from hydraulic issues, turbo problems, oil leak, overheating in the rear – burning bodywork, a wheel lost, the list is long! Then we hear the familiar tones of Eric ‘The Believable’ assuring the press that McLaren were successful, all problems were solved and it was not seriously lost time.
So what does our famous Spanish Samurai say now the tests are done, next stop Melbourne in 2 weeks?
The 2005 and 2006 world champion said in an interview with Radio Onda Cero: “There is no reason for me to be pessimistic.”
“McLaren are the second best ever team in the history of the sport, Renault are one of the best engine manufacturers, we’re full of ambition”
” What happened during the tests does not change our goals, we want to get as close to the top 3 teams as possible. And that’s exactly where we are”
McLaren are 4th best team? Perhaps the man from the Asturias has been reading Gary Anderson from Autosport a little too much. The former Jordan Grand Prix designer and technical analyst has repeatedly said that he believes McLaren will come out on top in the midfield, despite probable teething issues at the start of season.
Meanwhile the ex Minardi, ex Renault, ex McLaren, ex Renault (again), ex Ferrari driver lays out his terms for McLaren in 2018 revealing: “It must be feasible for us to qualify under the top ten fastest in qualifying every weekend and to fight for podium finishes in the medium term. ” commands Alonso.
Oh dear, perhaps he wasn’t listening to the Autosport Podcast after all….
In order to satisfy the terms of Fernando Alonso, McLaren will be required to regularly best a cohort consisting of an obviously dominant Mercedes with both drivers on form, a Ferrari (albeit from one of their drivers), plus the two young ambitious guns of Red Bull. All three teams clearly ahead in terms of performance, with all drivers capable of race wins.
Commenting on former engine partner Honda, Fernando says, “They showed a good winter test, and if they work in the top five, I’m glad. I’ve never had a problem with Honda. But a winter test is not the same as 21 races with only three power units. We are very happy with our work with Renault. Compared to last year, we are up to four seconds faster per lap.”
Interesting times lay ahead dear friends.