Almost three years have passed since the announcement of the deal between McLaren and Honda. A very promising deal between two major motorsport teams/engine suppliers, McLaren is one of the most historical teams in Formula 1 and Honda had participated in Formula 1 from various roles. From 2006 to 2008 Honda had its own team, between 2000 and 2005 they supplied BAR and Jordan with engines and from 2015 they signed a deal with McLaren and since then McLaren’s official engine supplier is Honda.
The partnership did not start as well as the majority of the fans was hoped for. In 2015 the two drivers, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, faced several technical issues and forced to retire twelve times in total. Furthermore, in Bahrain Jenson Button did not even start the race as McLaren announced that his car suffered from electrical problems, in Monza Fernando Alonso was penalised with 10 place grid penalty, because his mechanics changed for the ninth time his ICU, Button was also penalised for the same reason, but the British received a five-place grid penalty. The Spaniard retired on lap 50 of the race due to loss of power.
Despite the bad results and the poor engine performance, the two drivers managed to collect 27 points combined. Jenson Button finished four times in the top-10 and scored 16 points, while his team-mate Fernando Alonso scored 11 points and finished two times in the top-10, the first was in Silverstone and the second time was in Hungary where he finished fifth.
McLaren did not set the bar too high for the 2016 season, although the results were positive and showed that the endless work at Woking is paying off. There were still some technical issues which did not allow to the team and to the drivers to score more points and be as competitive as they wanted but made it clear to everyone that McLaren-Honda made huge steps of improvements.
McLaren-Honda completed the season in the sixth place in the construction standings ahead of Toro Rosso and collected 76 points in total, 49 more than the previous season.
Fernando Alonso scored the majority of the points, 54 points in total and finished 10th ahead of the Brazilian driver Felipe Massa. The Spaniard retired at the first race of the season in Australia, but despite the bad start he managed to recover in the following races. Fernando, finished nine times in the top 10, he finished two times in the fifth place. The two best races for Alonso were in Monaco and in the USA.
From the other hand, Fernando’s team-mate, Jenson Button collected 21 points and finished 15th in the driver standings. The Brit champion finished seven times in the top-10 and his best result was in the sixth place in Austrian Grand Prix.
In the upcoming season, McLaren will run with a fully restructured Honda engine and they hope that they will return to the top.
“For 2017, the Honda engine architecture and layout have been altered to serve both for performance and packaging needs,” said McLaren-Honda technical director Tim Goss.
“The new power unit takes much of the learning from the past two seasons, but has been specifically redesigned for this season. This season’s changes rank as some of the most significant we’ve ever had in the sport. That’s likely to change the competition order, because it’s such a big disturbance.” Goss added.
McLaren-Honda is hoping that the new regulations will allow them to close the gap with the other teams and especially with the top three teams and catch Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Personally, I believe that it is an achievable aim and it will be very positive for Formula 1 to see one of the most historical teams to return to the top and fight for a place on the podium.
Jenson Button will not be able to race with the new McLaren, but I am sure that Vandoorne will cover Jenson’s gap with his passion and his driving skills.
The exact date of the 2017 car launch is not known yet, but it will be before the first test in Barcelona.
Victor Archakis F1 Editor
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(Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)