After lots of media and fan scrutiny, Formula 1’s most indecisive team finally announced their 2015 driver lineup. The much deserving Jenson Button will retain his seat for 2015. Beyond next season remains debatable, but the team did the right thing in keeping Button who will provide a wealth of knowledge and experience in the testing and setup of McLaren’s new Honda power units. You really have to admire Button’s patience and professionalism over the last couple months. The team have been unable to deliver a competitive car for 3 seasons and no veteran of the sport should have to put up with the amount of unknowns and commitment dodging that Button endured. It speaks to lack of leadership within the team that starts at the top and just how fractured one of Formula 1’s heritage teams has become.
Joining Button will be arguably the best driver currently in the sport, Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard’s tumultuous 2007 season with the team is well documented and feigned enthusiasm from Ron Dennis on his return may run dry by midseason. The two claimed to have “unfinished business” earlier in the week at McLaren’s driver announcement in Woking and only time will tell if the relationship has truly mended. At its core Alonso’s arrival was Honda’s decision – they were keen to have the World Champion’s expertise on the team and he ultimately gives McLaren the best chance at winning next season.
With this week’s answers, there are still lots of questions. Many are claiming the return of Honda will also mark the return of McLaren’s winning ways. However, the Mercedes power unit is the most dominant currently in the sport and of the teams that used them in 2014, McLaren struggled the most on track. Chassis development is where McLaren have really missed the mark the last few seasons. With a revolving door of designers and engineers in Woking, it will take more than the glitter of McLaren-Honda heritage to get the team fighting up front. Another question is that of the team’s lack of a title sponsor heading into 2015. McLaren ended ties with Vodafone at the end of the 2013 season and have yet to secure a new sponsor. There were questions of Kevin Magnussen’s ability to attract Danish money to the team – he will remain a reserve driver next season.
Ultimately the team’s performance issues will remain a work in progress, it’s the personalities within the team that have the potential to make or break McLaren-Honda moving forward. Having two former World Champions means managing big egos and it’s unlikely that Button will have any interest in serving as the team’s number 2 – something Alonso has sought on every team he’s driven for in his career. In the background you have Ron Dennis who’s relationship isn’t strong with either driver. Animosity remains and it may only be a matter of time before that surfaces publicly if the team don’t do well next season. Presumably there are opt out clauses in Alonso’s 25M contract if it ends up being a difficult fit.
A couple things are for sure, McLaren-Honda will be one of the most interesting teams to follow in 2015 and you can be sure of more Mark Webber sightings in their garages.
My mates Billy Button and the Fonz team up next year. Great driver line up. Now plenty of pressure on Woking to roll out a weapon. 🚙💨.🇬🇧🇯🇵.
— Mark Webber (@AussieGrit) December 11, 2014
Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.