One of F1’s most successful and fan-favourite teams, McLaren, have struggled these past few years. While the team thought the under-lying problem was the engine supplier, 2018 exposed the actually car chassis to be the real problem. With a new mindset and a completely changed driver line-up, what can McLaren achieve in 2019?
Talent from within and out
With 2 Time World Champion Fernando Alonso announcing that he would be leaving F1 at the end of the season, McLaren were now looking for a talented driver who had experience in their back-pocket. To replace a Spaniard, of course you need a Spaniard in that McLaren chose Carlos Sainz Jr. The former Toro Rosso and Renault driver, who made his debut in 2015, has scored 171 points with a best finish of 4th in 4 seasons of competition.
Not confident in Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren decided to promote from within in a driver who has shown huge potential. Lando Norris has won a host of awards and a number of championships including the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship in 2016 and the FIA F3 European Championship in 2017. The Brit competed in the F2 Championship last year in which included one win and 9 podium appearances on his way to 2nd in the standings. He was awarded with 7 FP1 practice appearances with McLaren towards the end of last season.
Seidl appointed Team Boss
McLaren will be joined by former Porsche LMP1 Team Principal and BMW employee, Andreas Seidl, who will be managing director of the team. Seidl will report to Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, with responsibility for all aspects of the team’s F1 racing programme. This move comes after a continuous restructuring of the team in their recovery plan long-term strategy to return to the top step of the podium.
Gil de Ferran will continue in his new in Sporting Director in which he was appointed in July before having a more serious impact towards the season’s end. Toro Rosso’s Technical Director, James Key, has been approached and has signed with McLaren but due to contract negotiations, there has been no official date of the Englishman joining the team
Not aiming for a championship challenge yet?
McLaren’s recent struggles in the past few seasons has been really tough to watch. Fans, including myself, pundits and experts have been praying for the British team to make progress up the pecking order. But, in July last year, Brown reported the dreaded news that we didn’t want to hear – that McLaren was ‘years away’ from a title challenge.
When asked by the official Formula1.com, Brown talked about how long a title challenge will take. “This is going to take some time to fix. I think we are years away. I don’t know if that’s two or 10, or somewhere in-between. Probably more like somewhere in-between, but I don’t want to get into predictions.”
Although, after the season’s finale, Brown had some encouraging words to say about the future. “I think we’re now on the road to recovery as I tell the men and women at McLaren, it’s going to feel good before it looks good.” When asked about 2018 performance, the American said “I certainly think this year is a low spot, and this era is a low spot.”
2019 aims and hopes
With engine supplier Renault making gains in the engine department, McLaren have got to make sure that everything on their side is in the right order. McLaren admitted that they had gone in the wrong direction last season in terms of chassis and aerodynamics.
Speaking in January at the Autosport International Show, Brown said that both Sainz and Norris were “anticipating a good car.” “We are anticipating a good car. The off-season development has gone according to plan.”
McLaren have not won a GP since the end of the 2012 season and not finished on the podium since the 2014 Australian GP. These two are pretty ambitious hopes for this season, so consistent point scoring positions in the top 10 is definitely a more realistic goal.
In the hands of Alonso and Vandoorne last season, McLaren finished in 6th with a mass of 62 points. 60 points behind the works Renault team in 4th , 357 points behind Red Bull in 3rd and 593 behind Constructors Champion Mercedes.
If McLaren can achieve a similar amount of points, or even more than 2018, it’ll be a step in the right direction. The goal for them this season will be to lead the “mid-field”. To do this, consistency is well and truly needed. Progressing into Q2 and more importantly, Q3 will boost their chances of points come Sunday.
Sainz and Norris are in for a long and hard season but if everything goes well in Pre-Season Testing and in the first few rounds of 2019, then McLaren could be in for a well-deserving year.
McLaren will launch their 2019 challenger on the 14th of February.