McLaren – Lots Of Questions


(c) Neil Simmons


Mutterings of McLaren Looking at an alternative engine supplier, a pre-season testing which saw the car breaking down on circuit and a discontented looking Fernando Alonso at the press conference for the Australian Grand Prix.

Is this the preparation that McLaren, an eight time Constructors’ champion needs before the start of the season?

The obvious answer is ‘of course not’.

This then moves onto the second question. Is the Honda power unit the way forward for the team?

The answer to that question surfaced with rumours of McLaren sounding out Mercedes as a potential engine supplier.

With the future of Stoffel Vandoorne and a double world champion in Fernando Alonso leading the team into the new season, plus the razzamatazz and promotional work that was the unveiling of the new car, the 2017 pre-season started with hopes and dreams of past honours that hung like a ghost around the factory.

Can McLaren be competitive this season? – There is a third question.

(c) Neil Simmons

On the face of it, no they won’t. It appears that with the problems they have faced during testing those worries are not going to go away. Eric Boullier has been bullish in his interviews and has at times played the cliché ridden, party line of saying that with any new regulations there needs to be a certain amount of time to settle in.

But how long does this become an excuse? – A fourth question.

It would be positive to think that by now the gremlins were laid to rest and the problems fixed. A book full of excuses and deflective PR has been the story of McLaren’s pre-season.

Is the Honda-McLaren partnership doomed for failure? – A fifth question.

I sat and watched Fernando Alonso in the press conference today and his demeanour repeated that of a man who infamously shouted down the radio “GP2! GP2!”

Does he have the hunger this year? – A sixth question.

We have not heard much from the future of F1, the future of McLaren. Stoffel Vandoorne has been conspicuous in his absence from making any kind of quotes about the team, the power unit and the aspirations for the forthcoming season. The new man coming in, wanting to do the right thing and a double champion, presumably coming within the last two years of his career in Formula One, not wishing to sit on the fence any longer.

Cast this thought across your mind for a moment.

A McLaren car battling at the back of the grid, not getting beyond Q1 and having major reliability problems through the course of the season.

That, as a McLaren fan, is not something I wish for but the reality is that this is something which could possibly become reality. I haven’t seen any hunger or determination in the eyes of Alonso since the tests began. At the launch of the new car it was different. He was smiling, he cracked jokes and he looked like a man who was hungry for the season ahead. That has now disappeared over recent weeks.

Will McLaren dump Honda for another engine supplier? – A seventh question.

It would not be construed as a bad move for a team who haven’t seen one of their drivers win a world championship since 2008. Run that year through your mind again. 2008 – nine years since a McLaren driver won a championship.

They are not one of the teams running at the front any longer.

Zak Brown has gone on record as saying this is not going to be a quick fix.

How long is too long? – An eighth question.

It is now as I sit here typing this article I realise there are far too many questions than answers and heading into the new season it pains me to say it, but I just don’t think McLaren are anywhere near ready for being competitive. I also believe that if these problems are not sorted in pretty quick time, Fernando Alonso will walk away. A spare seat and a man like Jenson Button waiting in the wings.

Who would want to step into this cauldron of the unknown? – A ninth question.

Can McLaren really work with Honda? – A tenth question.

This weekend we will find out how far they have pushed on, what the team have done to rectify the problems they faced in testing and what they can possibly do to make this season less painful than it already is, before it has started.

Is a Mercedes engine the answer? – An eleventh question.

Is Ferrari an alternative solution? – A twelfth question.

All these answers and more will become clear soon.

Will they be the right answers? – The final question.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

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