Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Bahrain, 2014

McLaren’s year of transition before Honda reunion

2014 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Bahrain, 2014

With less than two weeks to the start of the season, questions remain over exactly how McLaren’s F1 team will be set up. But one thing is for sure: steps are being taken to prevent a repeat of their dismal 2013 campaign.

The most significant change is Ron Dennis’s re-assertion of his influence over the Formula One team, which he previously ran until 2008. Work has already begun on a re-formed management structure.

This began with the arrival of Eric Boullier from Lotus as racing director. The team have remained silent on the destiny of Martin Whitmarsh, who served as team principal for the last five seasons.

A further appointment is expected which will see another person occupying a space on McLaren’s organisational chart above Boullier and below Dennis.

McLaren endured win-less seasons in the Dennis era, as recently as 2006. But in 2013 they failed even to finish on the podium, something which hasn’t happened since 1980, the year of Dennis’s original takeover of the team.

Jenson Button, McLaren, Bahrain, 2014Last year’s frustrations didn’t just take place on the track. Ahead of the end of their Vodafone title sponsorship deal McLaren declared a replacement would be announced on December 2nd.

The date came and went without any news, and when the team’s new car was revealed this year the largest logos on the bodywork said ‘MP4-29’. There’s been no sign yet of a new title sponsor.

McLaren over-reached with the MP4-28 last year, believing they needed to be more ambitious than producing a mere evolution of the successful 27. But having their fingers burnt hasn’t discouraged them from taking risks. Their latest driver hiring is a clear sign of that

After failing to find a place for development driver Kevin Magnussen at another team this year (Whitmarsh said an agreement was reached with another team who then nixed the deal) McLaren took the surprising decision to make room for him in their own line-up by jettisoning Sergio Perez after a single season.

Whether that turns out to be an inspired or flawed decision, you can’t deny their bravery. And Magnussen has looked handy in testing so far.

They have also pushed the envelope when it comes to car design. Their flared rear suspension, designed to make up for the loss of the lower beam wing and make the diffuser work more effectively, is one of the most eye-catching developments on any of the new cars.

But whatever the year holds for McLaren it is going to be a transitory campaign. They have a single year left with long-time engine partners Mercedes during which they have to get to grips with a radical new engine configuration before changing over to Honda power next year.

Preparations are already well underway for the historic reunion of one of F1’s great team-and-manufacturer combinations. Even so, the new management will expect considerably better than fifth place in the constructors’ championship.

McLaren’s F1 record

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Championship position 9 10 2 4 5 6 3 3 1 3 2 3 8 7 9 6 2 5 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 2 2 4 4 4 4 1 2 2 2 3 3 5 2 3 11 2 3 2 2 3 5
Points 3 3 52 38 35 10 47 58 73 53 74 60 15 15 11 28 69 34 143.5 90 96 76 199 141 121 139 99 84 42 30 49 63 156 124 152 102 65 142 69 182 110 0 151 71 454 497 378 122
Wins 0 0 3 1 0 0 1 3 4 3 6 3 0 0 0 1 4 1 12 6 4 3 15 10 6 8 5 5 0 0 0 3 9 7 7 4 1 2 1 10 0 8 6 2 5 6 7 0
Pole positions 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 8 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 2 2 0 15 15 12 10 1 1 0 0 0 1 12 11 7 2 0 2 1 7 3 8 8 4 1 1 8 0

Over to you

Do you expect McLaren will bounce back in 2014? And how well will Magnussen handle the opportunity he has been given? Have your say in the comments.

2014 F1 season preview


Browse all 2014 F1 season preview articles