A turbo upgrade at June’s Canadian
Grand Prix was followed by a major upgrade
to the V6 engine and, again, the turbo at
August’s Belgian GP, and performance is
improving to the point where McLaren is
now a consistent points threat. In October’s
U.S. GP, Alonso’s fifth-place finish matched
the combo’s best previous result – his
dogged drive in a wet/dry Monaco GP.
From where it started, that’s a positive
step. Efficiency, power, reliability, the ERS
package have all improved – and expect a
major layout redesign next year that could
remove the turbocompressor package
from the vee of the engine and move
closer to the Mercedes split turbo concept.
But the Honda unit is just part of the
package. McLaren doesn’t have an
unblemished record, car-wise. In 2014,
when the Mercedes power unit’s
advantage was at its greatest, McLaren
was well behind Williams and only beat
the other customer team, Force India, by
a small margin in the constructors’ points.
But in 2014, Peter Prodromou joined
from Red Bull and set a new aerodynamic
direction, with a push for more compliant,
usable and consistent downforce, and less
focus on pure peaks. This helped with the
longer-term plan to ensure the car had a
MCLAREN’S CONSTRUCTORS’ DROUGHT
Although still regarded as one of F1’s superteams, McLaren’s last Constructors’
Championship – the embodiment of all-’round excellence – was way back in 1998.
(The last Drivers’ title was more recent, in 2008.) It’s also winless in four seasons.
Although McLaren finished second in constructors’ points in 2007, it was removed from the
final standings following the “Spygate” espionage scandal. It was also fined $100 million.
Season still in progress as RACER went to press.
A 30-year Honda
Arai as head of
project for 2016.
His less hyperbolic
approach to turning
around the program
appears to be
(LEFT) Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso
have endured the first two seasons of Honda’s
return. With Button on a sabbatical next year,
it’s Alonso who’ll get to reap any rewards.
(BELOW) McLaren boss Ron Dennis with
racing director Eric Boullier. Rumor says
Dennis will be ousted at season’s end.
(BOTTOM) Alonso remains upbeat on progress.
KEY MERCEDES HONDA