So McLaren have opted for the ‘let’s put the band back together’ route out of its current malaise with confirmation that, from 2015 onwards, it will once again be McLaren-Honda. It’s not been any secret that Honda, irresistibly drawn to the new 1.6-litre turbo engine formula due next season, were looking for a return to the sport. Given their lack of success under their own banner and McLaren’s requirement to find a new motor for 2015, it was bound to happen.
It’s good news. Together, between 1988 and 1992 McLaren and Honda dominated F1 with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna – Senna winning three and Prost one – and McLaren winning four, and included the astounding MP4/4 which, but for a slip up passing a back marker at the Italian Grand Prix, would have won every single race in 1988. Maybe McLaren can persuade God-like genius Gordon Murray to stop messing with his little city cars and come back; the low-line MP4/4 was all his idea.
But what happens between now and then? This year’s car is, if not a donkey, a capricious racer. The updates in Spain did not make it any faster. That Button and Perez were able to score points is down not to the car’s pace, but some steely tactical thinking and some elegant driving by the pair. Don’t forget ‘Checo’s’ reputation is built as much on his ability to spare the rubber as his pace.
Other teams with a tricky car are already regarding this year as an interim season, one in which it is much, much more important to think about the fresh start the new turbo-era offers in 2014. McLaren could do that, but then that would mean developing a car, the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-29, with a shelf live of exactly 20 races (or will it be 21 Bernie?) And can Mercedes really be expected to give McLaren anything more than ‘contractual obligation’ service?
We’ve said it before but McLaren needs to dig itself out of a big hole, needing to relearn not only how to build race winning cars, but also how to win with them. It needs to think very hard about its drivers, Button especially. Will he really be able to lead the team in 2015? So who to replace him with? McLaren needs a real star back in the team. Honda will help with that; the MP4/4 don’t forget was the first car in the partnership’s six year relationship.
Who would you like to be driving for McLaren-Honda in 2015?