Ron Dennis believes McLaren should have reverted to its 2012 car immediately after the first race of 2013, at the beginning of the team’s longest gap between Grand Prix victories its Formula 1 history.
McLaren has not won a race since the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of 2012 and has only secured two podium finishes in the 57 races since then, both of which came in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. This year the team finished ninth in the constructors’ championship, its worst performance since 1980.
Speaking at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Dennis explained that as the team ended 2012 with arguably the quickest car in F1, it should not have introduced a completely new design for the following year and when the new machine’s weaknesses became known, the decision to revert to the previous year’s car should have been taken.
He said: “The level of our performance this year is understood, last year sometimes your compass heading just gets completely off and you go down the wrong aero path and you’re toast.
“When you make a car and built into it is a fundamental weakness, it’s extremely hard to develop out of it. When we left what was a dominant season in 2012 we were by far the quickest car.
“There was no regulation change [for 2013]. It was not the right decision to make a new car and it was not the right decision not to immediately revert to that car after the first Grand Prix. That was a real point at which the company made a mistake.
“We should have reverted to [the 2012] car and we should have developed that car and then we would have not lost, instead of constantly pursuing something that, with the benefit of hindsight, was fundamentally flawed.”
When asked where his team’s recent problems had started, Dennis explained that there were a range of factors that affected an F1 team’s performance, from its chassis and engine to personnel changes and their levels of motivation.
He said: “When you look at Formula 1 overall, there is no question that teams go up and down in their performance. We don’t live in the past; we try to learn from it.
“We can analyse each year and you can say, especially retrospectively, where did we go wrong and that leaves out of the equation the technician, the designers, who in themselves become a bit of a commodity that move around the teams.
“They not only move around the teams but their own motivation goes up and down and you see that as having an influence as well. And of course, people mature and they lose some of their naked hunger to succeed.
“If you look at the patterns you realise that it’s a combination of everything and not about one thing. The fact that McLaren hasn’t had a particularly successful season either this year or last, you quickly forget the level of dominance that we’ve enjoyed.”
McLaren’s poor run of results coincided with Vodaphone stopping its title sponsorship of the team and Dennis pointed out that the situation had occurred as a result of changes at the British company and he was not worried about a lack of title sponsor affecting his team’s finances.
He said: “Things are rarely as they appear to be. The simple fact is we didn’t lose Vodafone, they chose to stop. There is a big difference because big corporations have senior management changes [and] it is inevitable when you have senior management changes that they have a different perspective and it is opportunistic for the CMOs to lobby for different directions. We were just caught up in these changes.
“Do I lose sleep over it? No, I don’t, and we are very strong financially. The equity value of our organisation is now well over £1bn and all of our businesses are profitable.”
Despite the problems McLaren has encountered with its Honda power unit in 2015, Dennis described the team’s efforts to improve next season and reiterated his belief that the partnership would be successful.
He said: “We have to dig deep, take the criticism and work that bit harder, but it is most definitely going in the right direction. Not so much here at the circuit, but on our test beds in Japan and in the windtunnels [in Woking]. We’re very focused, but intend to under promise and over deliver.”
“Our objective is to be as competitive as possible to win races [and] putting aside that, we’re absolutely here to win world championships, and that requires the best of the best, whatever that represents. It’s certainly not going to be achievable with the second of the best.”
What have you made of McLaren in recent years? Do you think the team will recover in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
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