There is a lot riding on the upcoming Formula 1 season for McLaren after their nightmare 2015. The team can boast eight Constructors’ Championships, twelve driver titles, 182 F1 victories and 155 pole positions but last year they were reduced to rank backmarkers.
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) March 11, 2016
This year the team has to aim to do better and podiums will be the target. The team’s reputation cannot withstand a repeat of last year and it is quite possible that their finances can’t either. Since finishing second in the 2011 Constructors’ Championship, McLaren finished third in 2012, fifth in 2013 and 2014 and ninth out of ten last season.
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have predicted massive gains this year and said that McLaren will be one of the top cars. Button went further and said that he only agreed to stay on after he was given an enticing preview of McLaren’s plans.
The pressure is squarely on Honda to fix the wrongs of last year when their power unit was underpowered and unreliable. It is unlikely that the team will accept any excuses if Honda fails to deliver.
However, the evidence from winter testing appears to be mixed. According to Alonso the Honda engine was reliable but the MP4-31 still lagged 20kmh or so through the speed traps relegating the car to around seventh or eighth.
As a result there is also pressure on McLaren to justify why it chooses to stay with Honda. Had the MP4-31 been powered by Mercedes or Ferrari engines last year then it would probably have been third in the pecking order. However, it still wouldn’t win as studies have shown the car is not particularly aerodynamic and much work is still needed.
In short, there is much work to be done on both sides in order to improve, but it is imperative that improvement is seen over the coming season.