Thursday, August 20, 2015

1 Racing Mind 2015 Formula 1 Mid-season Report Card: McLaren Honda


McLaren Honda: D


Fernando Alonso: C+

Jenson Button: C

McLaren is a used to being a front-runner in Formula 1 competition. Winning eight constructors titles, the race team rekindled a relationship with an organization that together enjoyed a dynasty similar to what Mercedes AMG is currently forging. From 1988 to 1993, McLaren and Japanese automaker Honda claimed four constructors' titles as a partnership. In 2013, Honda's return to the sport with a new hybrid power unit came with the anticipation for the 2015 season.

When Honda chose to sit out 2014 season to work on their power unit, it seemed acceptable to believe they would have ironed out all the bugs as they readied for 2015. Unfortunately for the new McLaren Honda team, missteps they would have wanted to see in a lab is appearing on the race track.

The new Honda powerplant was been shown low on power and durability right from the start of the season. For the 2015 Australian Grand Prix season opener, the McLaren-Honda #20 of Kevin Magnussen suffered a power unit failure when before taking to the grid. On 11 occasions in the first 10 races of 2015 including two times competitors were not even able to start a race, the McLaren Honda team cars failed to make it to the finish line.

Though retirements reflect poorly for the McLaren Honda team in the first half of the 2015 season, there is some optimism. Despite the understandably pessimistic attitude surround the McLaren Honda team, the organization has scored points so-far this season (an almost bewildering outcome from some rather nightmarish circumstances). Two McLaren Honda drivers scored points in two races.

The performance-plagued McLaren race car has made it difficult to evaluate the two former world champions in the team's drivers' line-up. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are involved with the less-familiar position of running deeper in the Formula 1 grid. Fernando Alonso's season started in the worst possible manner with a crash in pre-season testing. Missing the Australian Grand Prix, Alonso returned to the track in Malaysia in a race that lasted just 20 laps for the Spaniard ending with a power unit failure. While finishing races has plagued Fernando Alonso so far in 2015, the two races prior to the summer break resulted in a tenth at Silverstone and a fifth in Hungary.

Jenson Button joined the team in 2010 as a teammate with Alonso. Bringing the Honda powerplant to the finish for its first event, Button also scored the first championship points for the new McLaren-Honda combination. Signs seem to indicate this could be his last season. Nothing is confirmed for 2016 by the team or driver and news is mostly pure speculation. 


Ingredients for Second-Half of 2015:

When Bruce McLaren first competed with a chassis of his own constructor name in 1966, it wasn't until the McLaren's third season when the team claimed its first victory. The first win in 1968 occurred interestingly enough in the Belgian Grand Prix. In 2015, McLaren is thinking smaller heading into the Spa-Francorchamps track. Honda touts a revised power unit for the McLaren race car starting in Belgium said to have "updated the combustion characteristics" according the Honda R&D's Chief Officer of Motorsports Yasuhisa Arai. What this means for the upcoming grand prix and the remainder of the 2015 season is a mystery.

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