There’s no way to gloss over it – McLaren’s 2015 season was simply abysmal. Their reunion with Honda was more “The Power of Nightmares” as opposed to “The Power of Dreams”. However, with the current engine format that F1 has, there was never going to be any way that a privateer team would overhaul the manufacturer of their power unit. The only way McLaren can challenge the might of Mercedes and Ferrari is with a separate power unit supplier, and that is the task they have taken up with Honda. Whilst their 2015 targets were far from reality, at the very least it seems as if gradual progress is being made, most notably within the reliability area. Despite all this, Honda has done some reshuffling, and it can only be assumed that the McLaren F1 2016 car may have the chassis and the drivers (albeit aging ones) – but not the power to do some serious challenging this year.
2002-2006: Renault (test, then race driver)
2005-2006 F1 World Champion
Alonso is coming off the back of a number of unwanted personal records in 2015. Whilst all of the rumours that he will leave the team (he is on a three-year contract with seemingly no get out clauses or anything like that) have proven to be completely false, Alonso appears to be a lot more committed to this contract than he was with his previous McLaren contract. By his own admission he did not perform at his best in 2015, and it was more and more clear that he was becoming disillusioned with F1 in its current state. Should McLaren produce a car more capable of a woeful ninth in the championship, Alonso should really be expected to be fighting more frequently than he did in 2015. For his and his many fans’ sake, let’s hope he isn’t given a “GP2 engine”.
2009 F1 World Champion
Perhaps not as well documented but still highly worth noting is that 2015 was the third year in succession that Jenson Button has failed to stand on the podium after a Grand Prix. 2015 was a fairly mixed year for Button, which saw some stealthy drives into the points but at other times moments where he would cause completely incidents – ironically on one occasion with Pastor Maldonado. The Jenson Button retiring from F1 rumours don’t seem to appear anywhere nearly as frequently as the Alonso ones do, but as the most experienced driver in the field now and with nothing confirmed for 2017 as yet, those will be a more common occurrence.
McLaren managed a solid amount of mileage in testing, completing roughly as many laps as the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Force India – despite effectively missing an entire day of running. Their lap times were not necessarily all that impressive in testing, however they did set their quickest time on the Soft compound, whereas some of their rivals opted for softer rubber. Reliability still seems to be a major factor with McLaren, but they seem in a much better shape than they were 12 months ago.
Another ninth in the championship would be absolutely disastrous for McLaren and for Honda. With two World Champions in the cars and another decent chassis by the looks of it, there is no doubt that the car will be good through the corners. Where McLaren will be will very much be dependent on how quick and how reliable the Honda power unit is. From what I have seen, it seems as if it is on par with the Renault one. McLaren could be on for seventh this year.