The last time a McLaren driver won a race was at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, that driver was Jenson Button. It was a weekend where McLaren also had their last pole with Lewis Hamilton. The last time we saw McLaren on the podium was at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix when Kevin Magnussen finished 2nd and Jenson Button 3rd.
Those are statistical facts.
What is more surprising, when you think about it, is the last time a McLaren driver won a Drivers Championship. That was Lewis in 2008 and way before that in 1998 was the last time McLaren won the Constructors Championship.
1998 – Think about that for a moment. Nineteen years ago was the last time the third most successful Formula One constructor won a title. That is a staggering fact.
Honda have in certain media circles been criticised over the last two seasons since their return but as Eric Boullier pointed out, Mercedes had developed their hybrid engine some years before, away from the race track. McLaren and Honda have had to do their preparation and testing in the full glare of the fans and media and on the race track. It takes time and loyal McLaren supporters understand this.
The new regulations kick in this season and in some quarters there is talk of a McLaren revival, but then on the other hand there is news of certain individuals leaving the team and fans begin to wonder if this really is the season of the comeback.
Will the team bounce back?
It is what all McLaren fans are hopeful of and it is not only those loyal supporters who are clinging on to a veil of hope, Fernando Alonso believes that the team can truly challenge this year.
In 2016 they finished 6th in the Constructors Championship, 62 points behind Williams and just 7 points ahead of Toro Rosso. Alonso managed, remarkably, to grab 10th in the Drivers Championship with Jenson Button finishing 15th. Those aren’t figures supporters of old will be used to, ever since that first title win for a McLaren driver, Emerson Fittipaldi back in 1974, through to Hunt, Lauda, Prost (3 times), Senna (3 times), Hakkinen (twice) and Lewis in 2008.
The team itself has won eight Constructors Championships and would dearly love to make it nine, with Honda having last won a title with McLaren back in 1991, the year Ayrton Senna stood tall.
As a forty-one year McLaren fan myself, it would be amazing to think that the team, Honda and its partners having put in so much preparation and testing over the last two years will be a successful team, challenging at the top.
A team of old but with a rejuvenated character, a hurt animal with pride to claw back. To have this team, with all its history and honours, fighting back at the front again with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari would not only make McLaren fans happy, I think it would genuinely boost the flagging interest in Formula One.
That last comment is by no means meant derogatory towards F1, it is purely the fact that over the last few years it has not been the most entertaining motor racing series around. A revitalised team, such as McLaren, forging their way to the front to battle with those teams who have had the advantage over recent years would be a massive boost to the sport.
McLaren now have Zak Brown in and with him being a McLaren fan, a racing driver himself who is passionate about the sport and a very successful businessman, it is hoped that finally the right man has come along at the right time to steady the ship and see the crew through stormy waters to the light on the horizon.
There have been reports of employees moving on, but I don’t think this should cloud the work that is going on behind the scenes. Sometimes, as fans, we don’t need to know what goes on in meetings, or what is discussed as best for the business. As fans we want to see those two drivers in a McLaren car out there on track battling with the best around for a chance to be crowned a World Champion. As fans, that’s all we truly desire.
We haven’t seen that since 2008.
Will we see it in 2017?
With the change in regulations there is a lot of talk of what will happen this season. I have seen some mention of how Red Bull are ahead of Mercedes in development and how Ferrari are developing a car destined to win this year. But what if something out of the ordinary was to happen in this unknown, untested and different era?
What if those teams mentioned above are not as far ahead as they would like us to think?
What if a team, say McLaren, was able to find that old swagger, boosting confidence and developing a car that could win races, possibly a championship?
For McLaren fans, wouldn’t that be a wonderful thought?
Personally, I think 2017 is a little too soon to talk of McLaren or a McLaren driver lifting the big prizes at the end of the year, but I am hopeful that better race results are there for the taking, maybe even challenging for podium positions. That is the hope.
For now, before the car reveals and official tests, we wait patiently with baited breath.
Can McLaren bounce back?
I think they will, just not as big as some supporters would like at the moment.