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.
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
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.
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