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New McLaren breaks cover, but second half of the F1 season will really count
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Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Feb 2016   |  11:14 am GMT  |  121 comments

McLaren launched its 2016 challenger this morning, powered by a ‘new’ Honda engine, which features significant new design areas.

The message from the team is upbeat, even extending to their comments about the ‘robust’ commercial sponsorship roster the team enjoys, even when the car reveals many high-value blank spaces, such as the side pods. Chandon has upped the ante and, contrary to reports last season, Johnnie Walker is still visible on the drivers.

To be fair, McLaren does things slightly differently from other teams in that a number of its blue chip sponsors aren’t interested in being large stickers on the car; they spend their money offline and leverage their sponsorship through the drivers, hospitality or another areas of collaboration with the team. They use McLaren as a way of being in F1 and having an F1 story to tell, in other words.

McLaren

But onto the car; it’s a sleeker design than last year’s. Peter Prodromou, formerly Adrian Newey’s right hand aero man at Red Bull, has had more time to curate the aerodynamics than with last year’s model.

Clearly the key will be the Honda engine in its second season; will it be more powerful, will the drivers be able to compete fully in all areas of the track with deployment of the ERS boost and will it be reliable? Fernando Alonso used three seasons’ worth of engines last year. That cannot happen again.

But there is another, more subtle aspect to dealing with engine woes, which has a huge carryover effect on the chassis efficiency and the way the car works as a package.

The key question here is, at what point in the 2015 season did McLaren and Honda face up to their engine problems and set a path for 2016 design and architecture on the 2016 engine? If it was only in May or later, then this car will carry a number of compromises and carry-over problems, as the main architecture of a new F1 chassis design needs to be locked in around April/May.

When you are competing against teams like Mercedes and Ferrari, who have their own engine makers next door, you are up against cars that are conceived as a single entity; with the engine and chassis in total harmony. That is the key to Mercedes’ success in the last two seasons and it’s the reason why Ferrari is coming back strongly at them now, ahead of any of the other ‘big’ teams, like McLaren or Red Bull.

Ron Dennis, Christian Hormer

McLaren versus Red Bull spats

Interestingly, there is a delicious sub-text running through McLaren’s release documents today, issuing a ‘hands-off’ message to Red Bull with regards to the Honda engine. Christian Horner pushed hard to get the Hondas and continues to seek a supply for 2017; he has successfully got the FIA to agree to a change in the regulations that the manufacturers must supply all the teams, so he doesn’t have a repeat of last Autumn when Red Bull couldn’t find anyone to dance with. But we haven’t seen the precise wording yet.

Incidentally, words are chosen carefully at moments like today’s announcement and McLaren’s communications head Matt Bishop is a master of the subtext. McLaren is putting up two fingers towards Red Bull with statements like, “The striking and innovative MP4-31 chassis integrates the new Honda RA616H power unit, developed exclusively for the team.”

Another is Ron Dennis’ stinger, “We maintain an indefatigable commitment to the winning potential of a full works team. Believe me: the full works backing of a multinational automotive manufacturer is the only platform from which real success in modern Formula 1 can be achieved. As McLaren-Honda, therefore, we’ve vowed to work together, and to win together.”

Christian Horner will have chuckled over his morning cornflakes at that. He nicked TAG Heuer from McLaren as a sponsor and persuaded the watch company to brand his Renault engine this year. For 2017 he would love to go one better and get a supply of Honda engines. Dennis will have sentries out with long handled pikes to try to stop that. We’ll see what the wording of the 2017 FIA regulations says, regarding a manufacturer and the minimum number of teams it must supply with engines, in the next few weeks.

Watch out for Red Bull vs McLaren spats over engines and other matters in 2016. And, on the face of it, Red Bull is probably the level McLaren is targeting to race at this season.

McLaren

Both drivers are on message, with the predictable ‘all for one and one for all’ solidarity after a nightmare 2015 season. All eyes will be on Fernando Alonso in the next two weeks of testing. He’s a keen poker player but he’s not very good at hiding his body language ‘tells’, as a true Las Vegas high roller would.

If we see the hunched shoulders and the dark eyes, then things are not looking positive. I’d be surprised if he sat out the season on sabbatical, but better informed people than I believe it’s possible if the car is a dud and Dennis hardly ruled it out in his media briefing in Abu Dhabi.

So what can we expect from McLaren for 2016? A better performance than 2015 for sure, but on the sliding scale from where they were last year to where Mercedes and Ferrari are, they could be anywhere. One would suspect that they’ll compete around the top ten from the outset and score solid points on a regular basis.

It will be a season of two halves for McLaren. The new rules freeing up areas manufacturers can work on in development of their engines in 2016 mean that the brakes are off for Honda this year. They should be able to fix problems and develop quickly using their 32 tokens wisely. There are no longer any ‘locked in’ problems like Honda had last year.

This is McLaren and Honda’s saving grace for 2016 and on that basis, although we haven’t seen the car running yet, one would imagine that they should reach the podium this year with this car.

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1

[Mod] Honda not good enough again. Signals a shift in engine technology centre of excellence back to Europe which quiet frankly is reflected in the cars Europe make. Unfortunately for Mclaren, it might better off making its own engines!

2

What is that clear half sphere stuck to the nose of the McLaren to the left below the “22”?

It looks like one of Pamela Anderson’s breast implants.

3

What an incredibly lazy livery.

I mean, really? Really?!

4

It’s quite surprising the Honda H badge on the nose cone isn’t red, all fast road and racing Hondas have a red H badge, why does this have the silver?

5

“all fast road and racing Hondas have a red H badge”

Key word there being “fast”.

6

I’m guessing it’s because it’s a McLaren chassis so not a true Honda or this car is still not yet worthy of carrying the famous red emblem, but the BAR F1 cars all carried the red emblen…..

7

Higher contrast, more visibility I would guess.

8

Find it a bit mysterious that Sauber and Force India just kind of nonchalantly toss out a top 10 running car every year, yet McLaren seem to really struggle with this. With their resources they need to be gunning for podiums.

9

Boring livery and worrying lack of sponsors again, but let’s hope it’s a goodun, even if your not a mclaren fan it’s not good for the sport to have a team like them struggling. Although they have a fairly sizable road car devision now I still consider them a privateer like Williams.

One thing a lack of sponsors should enable them to do though is have some outrageous livery but sadly it’s a very corporate gray / black. Mclarens “colour” is orange and it would be nice to see some more of it on the car. On that note does anyone know why Mclarens were always orange, was it the New Zealand racing colour?

10

See my comment above:

I agree totally with Gaz Boy, would love to have seen the McLaren in orange. But the national racing colours of New Zealand are actually green, black and silver. F1 McLarens were originally white with a green stripe, then red, before orange was adopted by Bruce McLaren first in Can Am then F1. Apparently it was Teddy Meyer’s idea – see http://www.mclaren.com/formula1/blog/alan-henry/changing-face-mclaren-f1-car-liveries/

11

Boo! ……. And that should make the previous appear.

12

By scaring them? Yes, there your poor lost comments were, just about to sneak back, and then you go and scare the **** out of them so they run off again.

Told you Ray: Bowl of milk and then just shhhh 🙂

13
Clarks4WheelDrift

Maybe shadows, looks like a big rake high at back, as Neweys Red Bull rockets hopefully.

14

Really, at this point in time McLaren and Red Bull should be allies trying to take down Mercedes and Ferrari. Much like how McLaren and Williams were friendly to each other in the 90’s, and usually in opposition to Ferrari.

The whole VW emissions debacle has really hurt RBR. I thought there was a good chance of Audi entering the fray, before the proverbial hit the fan.

15

That’s two comments lost in one day. This will no doubt follow suit.

16

I’ve been told by a reliable source that if you leave a bowl of milk out your comments might come back 🙂

17

If you have this problem, limit your post to 2 sentences, no more, then it will go through.

18

Couldn’t state it better than AxelC: “I really tough this year was going to give us exciting liveries what a disapointment.”

So …. what he said. For shame ! As someone else also pointed out, there are such awesome fan livery designs around, it hurts the eyes even more … think whe have to look at this for an entire year … for shame.

I do understand and think tho that in this case of McL, they keep looking for a title sponsor which will color the car at some point … they just need to add white label “your name here” …

19

I will be in minority but I like the car in it’s current livery. Yes it could be better, orange maybe 🙂 but black looks good to me.

Second thing, I don’t think it’s such a huge mountain to climb for Mclaren. For Honda? Yes! Agree they are a team, one without the other wont work, but if Honda have a half decent engine, not their lofty statements from last season but sorted their deployment issues for example, then Mclaren will go straight into fourth place as a team and as the season goes on it could be an interesting fight for third between them, Williams and Red Bull.

20

“I will be in minority but I like the car in it’s current livery. Yes it could be better, orange maybe 🙂 but black looks good to me.”

Didn’t you hear? Black is the new orange 🙂

21

What makes you think they have a top 4 chassis ? Because last year they set up the car for max. corner speed to compromise for lacking strait line speed people think the chassis is up to Merc, Ferrari, Red Bull standard.

22

Livery is ugly and looks incomplete. Something, anything, needs to go on the side pods.

23

If the car is rubbish Alonso might take it upon himself to give the side pods some Armco branding 🙂

24

Boring colour scheme, the FIA should ban this black nonsense…

Anyway it looks to have a fair few red-bull-esque aero features, prodromou has clearly had a full term to work on this

25

The colour scheme probably reflects the mood down at McLaren HQ. No mistake, this could well be the dog that sends Button into retirement and Alonso back to Renault.

26

Lets hope so ! Even one podium doesnt mean much, Lotus and Force India, not exactly top teams, managed one last year.

27

Absolutely, well said, I don’t feel to confident for Mclaren, the car looks very Lego shaped and squared, the engine probably will still be awful, over 100hp down on the Mercs.

Shame because Alonso and Button in a top car could well beat the likes of Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg and Raikkonen, if only Mclaren wasn’t such a shambles these days, if it carries on like recent years I can see Mclaren struggling financially and the team could be in danger of folding.

28

Shame because Alonso and Button in a top car could well beat the likes of Vettel, Hamilton

LOL, LOL, LOL

Really?

29

In theory they should make big strides with their resources and with the relaxation on engine development. If they don’t it will get ugly quickly. I imagine the atmosphere inside McLaren is very nervous this evening as they await the new car hitting the track tomorrow.

30

mclaren sometimes put out the best car by the end of the year but trip up by changing it for the next year. As far as I know 2017 is big changes in rules so any domination the might luck into this year could all be erased.

31

All the best to Mclaren. Cars slick & tight. Fingers crossed that the Honda Engine & Engine Recovery System are working together & importantly an excellent reliable source of power. Be great to see Mclaren back in the top team division fighting for wins. Best of British to you. Just have to see what happens in testing & if irs positive or negative, then the media attention will be on Alonso “will he” “won’t he” take a sabbatical will hit the proverbial fan.

32

I’m pretty confident that their Engine Recovery System is going to be excellent this year since they’ve been recovering and refurbishing engines 24-7 all season long last year. What I hope for is that their Energy Recovery System to be as good as they want it to be.

33

Twitch 6

Have you been watching to many episodes of

Big Bang Theory? Or are you changing your name to Sheldon ????

34

Bazzinga!

35

If it’s negative then it’s more than likely he will sit out the year as I just don’t see the point of him driving around at the back another year. May as well let Vandoorne so he can gain a bit of experience.

36

mclaren certainly have a mountain to climb. firstly they need to claw back, at a minimum, to the performances of last years mercedes/ferraris. that would then have to be further improved upon to match the new performance levels expected from both ferrari and mercedes. that means that in one fell swoop a huge deficit will need to be wiped out? can it be done? i doubt it but then again the rumours are that massive gains have been achieved. it will be fascinating to watch this develop…..

37

It certainly will Kenneth. More pressure on McLaren than Ferrari.

38

Spanish press reported they’ve found 233 horsepower.

No idea how they came about getting hold of that information. Probably an invented story.

39

@ nick H …on very good authority i believe that if fell off the back of a truck!!!!! haha

40

Indeed Kenneth a fascinating time ahead in testing.

41

100 % agree with you Kenneth ????

42

@ BK flamer……it’s great to have something exciting to look forward to as a common objective amongst all of us. it’s been a ery long wait…too long in fact.

43

Do you know what Kenneth, I’m totally in agreement with you on McHonda and their difficulties…………….

Any Formula 1 team that gets bogged down in a technical mire finds it extremely difficult to climb back up to the summit of”the greasy pole”. It’s not impossible, but it is a long hard slog (long hard slog = a few years). I mean, even Mercedes a few years had a “wilderness” period, and, Williams – never mind 40 days, they had close to a decade in a barren desert of uncompetitive machinery and results……

44

I really hope Mclaren can reach the podium at least once this season. But I still think it will be very difficult. A podium for honda already in the second season as engine producer would be quite an achievement. Especially with those intricate engines. Remember how long it took Mercedes to start winning. Was it 7 or 8 years?

45

A mean looking machine! Like it.

46

“Believe me: the full works backing of a multinational automotive manufacturer is the only platform from which real success in modern Formula 1 can be achieved”

James, I really feel that this is a finger towards Pat Symonds and Williams, really!

47

Peter Prodromou car…raaaaakkeeee! Engine might be better but they are still going to be way off the pace of the top teams.

48

After looking at the Ferrari and then looking at this, there is no comparison.

49

There is. You just have.

50

Yes, the zero packaging of the McLaren at the rear and its rake are a winner!

51

It looks a bit boring. I hope they take some steps forward and can challenge for the top places this season. Can’t see it happening though.

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