Reflections on F1 2016 – McLaren show signs of a force awakening amid turmoil
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McLaren F1 2016
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Dec 2016   |  8:26 am GMT  |  122 comments

Fernando Alonso had to tread water again in 2016, one of too many such years for the gifted Spaniard in a mixed bag of an F1 career. But he will have been heartened by clear signs this season that, after years of underperformance, McLaren is clearly on its way back to competitiveness.

Whether he will still be under contract when the package is ready to deliver race wins and championships, is hard to say. Mercedes and Red Bull in particular will be extremely hard to beat in the next few years and Alonso is now 35 years old. He has at least another two years in him, if he wants to continue and sees a realistic chance of netting that third world title he has always dreamed of.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Australian Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Melbourne, Australia

With the major aerodynamic rule change coming into force for 2017, which McLaren not only championed but did much of the development work on, there is a chance for the Woking team to make a leap forward.

The Achilles Heel for the past two seasons has been the Honda engine, but again there were clear signs of progress in 2016 and the Japanese company has been back in the F1 swamp long enough now to have taken on all the lessons of hybrid turbo engines and to replicate in their 2017 power unit what works about the benchmark Mercedes, while adding in their own Honda flavour.

There were all sorts of claims about how great the McLaren chassis was, claims that are hard to quantify as the engine clearly held the car back, but rival engineers who competed against the team this season highlighted many details and steps that appeared to take the chassis to third best in class, albeit some way behind the Mercedes and Red Bull, which were on a similar level.

McLaren F1 2016

It was possible to clearly track McLaren’s progress this year; broadly speaking they began the year behind Toro Rosso scrapping for the Top Ten and ended it battling with Williams and Force India for fifth and sixth place finishes. Alonso was on fantastic form with a string of results and performances that dragged the maximum out of the car on tracks where there was a chance to get a result, like the fifth place finishes in Monaco and Austin. But even his seventh place run in Singapore was a real highlight.

Jenson Button had a quiet season, with few standout performances and ‘retired’, in the sense that he said he would not be racing again in Formula 1, despite having a contract with the team for 2017 as an ambassador with an option to race in 2018 if required.

In reality, with Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire, there is likely to be a move around in the F1 driver market at the end of 2017 and McLaren will no doubt be a team that top drivers will consider as they look for the next ‘rising balloon’ that could take them to a world title in the next few years.

Stoffel Vandoorne

They have Stoffel Vandoorne taking up Button’s seat.

The 24 year old Belgian has had to wait a long time for his chance in the spotlight and is not likely to fluff his lines. He is another in a new generation of exciting young F1 drivers, alongside Verstappen, Sainz and Ocon, albeit a good few years older.

Engineers who have worked with him say he has a very high skill level, allied to a nature that is methodical and studious. His qualifying pace is clearly very strong and so it will be interesting to see how often he starts races in front of Alonso and whether he can progressively learn to stay in front as the season goes on.

If the team is in a position to challenge for the podium from time to time, there will be some real spice to this battle.

Alonso Australia 2016

He performed very well on his one chance in Bahrain this year when Alonso was sidelined with a cracked rib after his Melbourne accident (above). He qualified 12th and finished 10th, McLaren’s first point of the season and as much as was possible with the car at the time.

Behind the scenes there was turmoil at the top of the company as the long forecast rupture between Ron Dennis and his fellow shareholders was finally completed. A car crash in slow motion, Dennis called the grounds for his removal from the helm ‘spurious’, but in reality this had been coming for a long time.

XPB.cc Ron Dennis Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa CEO of the Bahrain Economic Development Board

Former VW motorsport boss Jost Capito, whom Dennis had brought in to the F1 team, but who never really appeared to fit in, also left at the end of the season. Culturally McLaren has changed inside; a much more international blend of engineers and leaders, but it will still take a while for the culture set by Dennis over decades to evolve into the new McLaren for the next chapter of the story.

This leaves Eric Boullier running the F1 team with American commercial expert Zak Brown coming in as Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group alongside Jonathan Neale, who has been running the operational side of McLaren for many years. It’s a strong line up, also demonstrating how it takes more than one Team Principal to run a modern F1 team.

F1 is a race on every level and McLaren has fallen behind commercially this year so doesn’t have the budget of the top three teams, Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, which could hold them back from challenging for the top prizes.

So correcting that will be one of Brown’s main objectives over the next couple of years.

Brown Bernie Ecclestone

What did you make of McLaren in 2016? Leave your comments in the section below

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1

Whilst McLaren are changing culturally, it is interesting to compare with Ferrari are going in the opposite direction. Marchionne, the Ferrari President is like Ron Dennis, making all the decisions. Arrivabene thought he was the team principal.

2

It still all about the power unit isn't it? In 2015, Honda were all over the place, it was awful to watch, embarrassing and infuriating in equal measure for fans of Maclaren FA and JB. The boss at the time Yasuhisa Arai would often contradict Neale and Boullier in a way that strongly suggested he didn't know what he was talking about. This year, under the more rational and pragmatic leadership of Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda have been much improved in terms of process and management, but whether they have the creative nous to innovate Maclaren to the top of F1 remains open to debate. As for the loss of Dennis, it strikes me that, while being a loss to the sport, Maclaren will remain stable under the leadership of Eric Boullier. He seems to be a competent individual, but again, does he have that spark of creative genius to push Maclaren into the rarefied company of Mercedes Benz?

3

AB It's always about the engine. The McLaren in 2016 probably had less drag due to cooling than even MB but way too down on HP.

IMO size zero engine including the turbo just won't work. The less cooling you need will help the Aero.

I hope I'm wrong but I think it will be more of the same for 2017.

4

Great post, but who is the creative genius at Mercedes?

5

And just to emphasize the comment from Johnson above as reported recently by ESPN:

"Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne has issued a warning to his drivers ahead of the 2017 season as they both head into the final year of their contracts."

"Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will continue as teammates at Ferrari next year as the Italian team looks to rebuild after a disappointing 2016. . . . and Marchionne said he would consider all options for 2018 and beyond."

Quite motivational, eh?

6

Coulda... Shoulda... Woulda...
I expressed my views on McLaren team numerous times here - No WCC and a single WDC in 17 years is not a sign of a Top team.
I have no reasons to believe anything will change in the next 17.

8

Real progress under Dennis after starting a difficult new era for the team with a completely new engine supplier. Then they ditch him just as they start to move forward. McLaren isn't the same team without Ron and I fully expect them to be stuck in the midfield like Williams.

9

Shareholder short-termism. There is probably very little understanding of the complexity of the challenge the team were facing and the time-scales necessary for the programmes to bear fruit.

10

Here is a guy with 0 seasons in F1...and he's getting a chance at potentially a podium car out of the bat.

Pascal had a full season. This talk that he's not ready is rubbish. They just wish his path wasn't that quick and easy to that seat. That's all. But sometimes you catch a break like that.

11

I understand engineers were not entirely sold out on him. Good but not great driver and sources say difficult character. It's been discussed here before... knowing who's on the other side of the garage and his character why would you as Merc team leader take that bet?

12

That's the nature of capitalism though, isn't it? I must have written this a million times before - in any form of business, knowing "the right people" - i.e "contacts" and being persuasive has never been a hindrance to anyone! Vandoorne's manager is called Mr Jenson Alexander Lyons Button - I think he is well qualified in "connections" with the "right people"............Bottas has a manager called Torger Christian Wolff who apparently is also well connected....

Of course opportunity is one thing, capitalising on it is another. Is Vandoorne may of the right stuff? That's a rhetorical question only time can answer. Or Bottas to come think of it.......

13

Hardly the same situation is it Sebee? Going into a team scrabbling for points finishes is very different to going into the championship winners.

14

The guy is GP2 champ, and a record holder in that. Usually demand for a driver determines his worth, so he might as well be the better driver here.

15

palmer is also gp2 champ and i can't wait to watch them go at each other.

16

Without a headline sponsor providing some serious cash, McLaren will not reach the top step all too often. Why no headline sponsor? Because F1 is behind a pay wall and fewer potential customers are watching.

17

Hoping the new F1 owners will change their business model.

18

Fewest ever!

19

Recent research showed the same development for all major sports. In fact F1 was even a bot better then football i.e

20

Being a F1-enthusiast (and McLaren-fan) since the mid-70's it wasn't until this years AbuDhabi GP that I saw my first race live. And I have to say that it was sad to see my favourite team and favourite driver fight for 10th place. They were so distant from fighting it with the topteams and it was really hurtful to see. Just not on the racetrack but also on the side of it. Of course, I was looking to but some merchandise-clothing from McLaren but I couldn't do it in the ordinary shops along Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams. I had to visit the biggest shop just to be able to buy a t-shirt and a cap. So McLaren has sunk a lot deeper than I could have imagine... So sad to see.
But at least they have Alonso. How he fought the car and was at the maximum for a 10th place was amazing to see. Without him they would be nowhere...
As for a show I have to say that I was quite disappointed. A couple of years ago I was visiting a race in Nascar and even that I'm a hardcore fan of F1 I have to admit that from the spectators view Nascar is a so much better product than F1 is. Everything is much better and I'm disappointed that my experience of F1 didn't give me more. Sure, it was a good race to watch with the leading drivers close combat thanks to Lewis tactics. But it will take much for me if I would go to see a race live again. I'll probably continue to follow it on tv and through your site James.
But what do you think James. When will McLaren be back in top? Will they be back at all? How on earth could they fall so deep so fast? What was the mainreason? And why do you think that Ricciardo will drive for them one day?

21

Not immediately but if they can boost the budget and continue in the way they are going over next two/three years they look the most likely team to join Mers and Red Bull at the front

22

In the late 80s/early 90s the McHonda alliance was the class of the field.............how times change! That's the issue though - the times and especially the culture 𝘩𝘢𝘴 changed. Instead of unlimited testing and empirical evidence, it's now all Computational Newtonian Fluid Dynamics, simulation software and mathematical modelling. Success is predicated on having the best computing and software infrastructure 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯 the factory, not gathering evidence at a wet and windy Estoril or Jerez testing until everyone is blue in the face.........obviously McHonda are slightly behind the curve ball on that front.

Still, the positive news for TAG McLaren International is that moving from 9th to 6th in the constructors cup means an increase of 14 Million Euros prize money from Mr E's FOM - every little bit of extra capital comes in handy.....

23

Yeah even though the token system is gone there is only 4 engines. There is the problem. No one else can catch up.

Maybe old tech is good enough at least for the engine to control costs. A V6 turbo can produce plenty of HP without batteries and energy recovery on the turbo. Without that the sound would be better and fire coming out the rear looks good too. There may be less torque but batteries weigh too much anyhow.

I think F1 being a contest in tech takes away from it being a proper sport. The show used to be getting to see people die like Indy. 500hp or so back then and very dangerous cars.

People still like danger and motogp is still pretty dangerous. The way F1 is now only manufacturers have a chance. Maybe if you build engines you shouldn't be allowed to own a team?

24

"...slightly behind the curve ball..."

Ah, I love a well mixed metaphor 😉

25

There is an air of inevitability about Mclaren Honda.
The Japanese pride has been severely dented since taking up the hybrid challenge and I can't see them giving up until they've redeemed themselves.
Unfortunately Ron going is gonna have an effect on next year,what sort of effect is impossible to say.
Good bad ugly springs to mind.

26

"Honda flavour" states the article and you believe Honda's pride has been dented...

When this partnership was first announced, both fans of Mclaren and most of the British media believed the glory days of Senna and prost were coming back.

The problem which everyone ignored was how had Mclaren performed over the intervening years, and rightfully what had Honda proven.

In the best part of a quarter of a century, Honda had won a handful of races as Mugen and as Honda in 2006. But critically their engineering wasn't round breaking or state of the art during this period. Always heavy, lacking top end power, thirsty and often unreliable...

As to Mclaren? Hakkinen took double title success with Newey designed cars but perhaps more critically in 1998, Mclaren had dropped Goodyear as a sponsor because they had announced they were leaving the sport at years end. Critically Mclaren called it breach of contract and moved across to the better tyre.

Allied to the Bridgestone shod Newey design, their only competitors were Williams, which had lost Newey and Renault works support, and Ferrari who were rebuilding.

If Mclaren hadn't won...

In 1999, Schumacher broke his leg and Irvine a lost took the title. The writing was the wall.

In 2008, Lewis triumphed for the drivers title but made hard work of the task. Good fortune in Monaco earned him victory despite an early brush with the barrier.

The other slice of good fortune was Massa's Ferrari retiring 3 laps from the end of the Hungarian GP with a blown engine.

Mclaren and Honda peaked over 25 years ago. In F1, that's a lifetime.

I first attended a Grand Prix in 1982. The equivalent argument would be comparing the teams of that era with the title winning Maserati team of 1957 driven by Fangio...

27

when mclaren announced their return to honda engine i said they were doomed and stand by it. they would've done much better with a mercedes or a renault engine.
look at how well that brawn went with the mercedes engine bolted to the back of it in 2009.

28

On the contrary, Honda do have a history of giving up when things don't go their way. I hope they stick with it this time.

29

Indeed - and let's not forget the irony that it is the old Honda works team, bought by Ross Brawn for £1 - and which then went on to win the WCC and WDC in its first and only season - which is now the mighty Mercedes team ...

Hopefully they might stick it out a while in order to try to eclipse that particular move in the history books ... 🙂

30

I actually think the opposite. I think Honda may pull out if this year is another failure.

I don't think any of us see a path to beating Mercedes, RBR of even Ferrari. Not 2017, and even 2018, etc. I think Honda may see this too. 2017 is a critical year, where a cord may be pulled on this F1 adventure. Remeber, this Honda CEO is not the one who signed Honda up for F1. And he's not all that attached to this decision by the previous CEO. By 2017, he's given it a chance for 3 years, and can easily call it a day. I think he will.

31

Well statistically, one of your predictions is bound to come true sooner or later. Maybe this is the one! 😀

32

I'm out there with very few theories right now.

1. Pascal gets the seat.
2. Honda out if 2017 is bad
3. V10s will be back because PUs aren't green or cost less at all.

I used to also have a theory that Mercedes was managing the 2016 outcome, but that's really no longer a theory.

33

Who is going to make the V10's in sufficient quantity for a supply to all of the teams. Ferrari possibly ok. Perhaps Renault but would they want to. Merc have one but would that be attractive to them. A change to V10's could see many of the 'works' teams pull out.

34

Illmor. Ferrari. Renault.

IP is all there. It won't be hard.

35

Sebee. Ilmor is going to build your engines?! You mean that company that no longer exists and is now the Mercedes F1 engine department? You think Renault might build a few for you? The same Renault that insisted on the PUs being introduced and threatened to leave the sport if they weren't?!

36

Don't forget Mercedes 'punching out' in 2020 or 2023 (depending which post we take).
BTW, what happened to you 'punching' out? I thought you said earlier this year you were done with F1 in it's current form. Can't say I've detected a decline in your comments/article ratio 🙂

37

That is true, I forgot Mercedes out by 2020. I stick by that one. I'm thinking now they will just sell the team to Toto.

My New Years Resolution is to comment way less, so you will see less of me. I've accepted that F1 is officially my treadmill workout app. I stand by my approach, that is I don't financially support this formula, I make a conscious effort to not buy anything from any manufacturer making these PUs, and I don't go to GPs. I even go as far as not to visit the official F1 site unless absolutely necessary - about 3 times a year. Although, if I can't VPN into UK to listen to BBC, I may download the free version of the F1 app. But in the end I probably won't, and end up reading a review and watching 3 min of highlights on youtube when I ride. Step by step C63...withdraw slowly. Likely higher chance of success.

38

conscious effort to not buy anything....

Apart from your Ferrari branded pedal cycle 🙂

Radio 5 live is the station you need to stream - available online in the UK, not sure about abroad.

39

Trek frame.
Shimano parts.
Mavic wheels.
Color match paint, PPG.

Zero F1 association.

$22 for Ferrari decals on eBay. I'm quite sure that money won't double Ferrari profits.

40

Direct endorsement of one of the dreaded PU manufacturers - you can spin it all you want but that's the case. No getting away from it 🙂

41

Hey C63, regarding theories, how is YOUR theory panning out about Mercedes Managed Championship, now that all the 2016 evidence is in? I seem to recall you were quite specific that it was impossible, not doable, no way! Where are you on that point?

42

My position is unchanged. The idea that Mercedes would deliberately sabotage one of their cars is (to me at any rate) unimaginable. It would involve too many people getting in on the act and could never be kept secret. I also don't really buy the idea they wanted a German champion - Nico isn't really considered a proper German by many, despite his best efforts of posting pictures of himself supporting Germany in the world cup etc. So, for me, it was just the way the cookie crumbled - hopefully Ham has better luck next year.

43

Agree on Merc 2020 - they seem to see FE as a platform, and although the same level of marketing publicity is not there right now, there are enough big names joining that this could well happen. If they can get the battery technology up there (and it is getting closer) and not have to change cars in the race then it may well take off big time. I live in Spain and the last GP I went to was Silverstone when Mansell won. Also don't fund F1 in any way - Bernie has enough already! For the moment I shall continue to watch and keep open minded about 2017. The worry is that there are too many manufacturers in F1 spending mega dinero and eventually it will be perceived that the return on investment is insufficient and the plug will be pulled, without any conscience. Just like a few years ago. F1 will continue, but perhaps not in a way that will interest many.

44

Even though there was clear progress at McLaren, I expected a bit more to be honest, especially towards the end of the year. I was hoping for a similar progression Ferrari made from 2014-2015, but that wasn't the case, which to be fair would have been near impossible.
On the chassis side, I wasn't convinced it was the 3rd best, or even 4th. Granted, the power deficit probably prevented the team from running as much aero downforce as it would have liked or was capable of, I still think they were behind the top 3 and Toro Rosso on the aero side.
But I'm expecting them to be the clear nbr 4 team at the start of the season, and not too far from whoever is 3rd, my guess Ferrari. This is their 3rd hybrid season with Honda, this time no restriction of tokens. It's Peter Prodromou's 2nd full stab at producing a car, and this time it's a lot more aero centered, and largely drafted by them.
McLaren these days are optimistic, but non-committal, refusing to outline targets. But as far as I'm concerned, they have to deliver podiums in 2017, and also be in the mix to win races at one or two tracks, like Monaco, Hungary & Singapore. There's no where to hide for McLaren in 2017.

45

I still can't believe Alonso is alive looking at that photo! Sensing a good year for Mclaren and a lot of hard work for the no.1 driver of the team. I hope that the new vibe at Woking extends to the track performance . In my dreams we have Alonso , Hamilton , verstappen and Ricciardo and maybe even a red car fighting for wins. Will Zack go for a massive name like Google or Amazon all respectable tax paying companies .

46

and Vandoorne!

47

"That" photo - Alonso's eyes through his helmet post Brazil 2012?

Hopefully those dreams come true (+ both McLarens, Mercedes and Ferraris) and we get to see a lot more competition!

48

Reliability is one area ML should improved. Serveral needless break downs not related to the engone does not helped the drivers.
A rear wing coming loose of a broken front suspension etc..
And the wind tunnel tests to often resulted in unusable parts ( like the rear wing in austria)
For a former top team to many mistakes. The shift in leadership will have it's impact to. So let's hope they get their act together next year.

49

Of course, nobody else makes any mistakes do they........
'A rear wing coming loose of a broken front suspension' etc. 😊

50

Only Ferrari and you know why that is 😉
Or the lower teams like Manor or Sauber.. but no real topteam makes that kind of amateuristic mistakes.
( i only mentioned two examples, the hydraulics, cooling, rimproblems etc and of course the failed testcycle at the start of the season proves my point)

51

Mercedes AMG ripped this team apart in the great pillaging of 2012. It has not yet recovered.

52

The third best chassis but some way behind the top two? Are Ferrari really that poor?

53

Quite surprised myself to read that... Given the importance of tyre management though, it may well be the case.

54
BWOAH Racing Acid

Running a team by committee doesn't sound like a good idea. Yes Honda will be designing a new power unit, but without real racing men like Ron Dennis & Jost Capito, things may falter.

55

The force that is awakening is Force India, not McLaren.
Just look at the McLaren nose... it looks like a skate ramp.
If I were a McLaren boss and a designer showed me a drawn like that I would fire him right away.
On the other hand, FIndia's nose also looks like wide and flat, but it has two holes in the nose that channels through inside, going out on top of the front suspension.
FIndia made strides in performance since their aero revision around Barcelona.
If regulations kept the same, McLaren would still be miles behind in aerodynamics.
McLaren fans kept "peaching" {mod} about Honda's performance, but when push comes to shove McLaren wasn't there either.
Honda made huge preparations for their home race at Suzuka: several new developments to feature there.
But McLaren faults were unveilled.
There is a bump at the Degner curve and McLaren was +10Km/h slower there.
The front suspension was so stiff and unsetled that their drivers had to break way before it.
I think Jenson lost interest in F1 a long time ago and Alonso is addicted to that stiff front suspension to rotate the car by drifting the rear.
Really poor job on chassis development.
The unreliable and weak Honda powerplant was maskerading the sloppy job on the chassis side.
Good news that regulations will change next year giving them a fresh start.
...
Since McLaren has less money from no title sponsers and petty cash from FiA's WDC and WCC standings, McLaren was to work better and smarter to close the gap.

56

The force awakening at McLaren? I always had them as being on the dark side to be honest, however now the Emperor has been dropped from a great height things may change.
They are making progress, but it is painfully slow, more of the same next year, perhaps get themselves clear of the rebels at Force India and Williams, maybe grab a podium or two? The big question is how long will Darth Alonso stick it out? i remember reading somewhere that McLaren have to have a WDC in one of the cars as part of the deal with Honda, this being the reason for Button getting the nod over Stoffel last year, and his retention for next season as a reserve in case Fernando bails. If this is true, then what if next years car is poor, and El Beardo cries enough at the end of the year? Jenson doesn't seem overwhelmed with the idea of driving in F1 anymore, Lewis would be un temptable, Kimi would be too old and Vettel would be unlikely to want to go anywhere other than Mercedes, so who else is there? Could the "empire strike back" with Darth Rosberg.....?!

57

Thank you, James for running this series of analysis on the various teams' performances in the year. It is insightful and informative I enjoy reading them during this winter break period.

For McLaren, there are indeed some positives this year. We could say it was to be expected after the nightmare that they had last year, but progress is progress, and it was good to see them improve both in performance and reliability. The reliability of the Honda PU in particular was much better, and they were able to run the same unit for around 5 races towards the end of the season, which is a vast improvement from last year.

Alonso's performance in the car is also another bright spark for the team, and I think he remains one of the best assets for them. It was really amazing to see him walk out of that car in Australia, and losing non of his motivation to drive even in Bahrain when he was injured. His subsequent recovery to deliver many fantastic drives was all the more impressive, given the start to his season, and the car package that he has. I really hope he will still be with the team when they are able to fight for victories and championships.

Besides performance and reliability in the chassis and PU, I think there are other areas that they need to improve upon, for example their strategy and pitstops. This year there were quite a number of times when errors in pitstops or the wrong strategy call cost them a lot in terms of positions in the races. I also remember a report of the crew dropping Alonso's car just before a race (can't remember whether it was in Austin, Mexico or Interlagos), fortunately there was no major damage sustained. All these are areas that needs to be tightened up if they were to fight for a championship.

There is one thing that is rather worrying though, and that is losing their exclusive fuel partner, Exxon Mobil. There are reports of BP coming in as their partner, but BP it seems will be sealing a big sponsorship deal with Renault. I wonder how this will affect their performance if they do not have an exclusive fuel and lubricant partner.

James, will you be able to provide more insights into the coming new partnerships between Mclaren & BP, and between Renault & BP?

58

This is a fair assessment of McLaren's year, and I don't think the team has much to be proud about. Lots of top people (supposedly), one of the best engine-makers F1 has ever had, but a bunch of mediocre results. Disappointing.

59

Something that should be mentioned is Honda getting another team interested in their power units.
Whether this was one of the sticking points with big Ron or not is still unknown but for sure the engine would have developed quicker had there been more of them.
And let's get a 'never mind Fernando' in nice and early with regards to being outpaced by Stoffel.
As to the suggestion by some quarters that Honda may pull out of F1 altogether,I've not heard anything so absurd all year......and you've come out with some good ones!

60
wayward deancassady

Agree that McLaren are (painfully) moving to the 'best-in-class' executive team design, first established by Red Bull, and now fully developed at Mercedes.
While I don't understand the Zak Brown appointment, they have Eric Boullier, Jonathan Neale, and, somewhat surprisingly undermentioned, Peter Prodromou, who some recognize as 'the competition' behind Adrian Newey in areodynamic design.
They are building the car up, new, from the inside out, and now await the arrival of a competitive PU from Honda.
It will be a damning criticism of F1 regulations in the current formula, if Honda can't make a competitive PU after this much 'learning' (at the same time yet another tribute to the silver arrows power division).
I expect friction when Stoffel Vandoorne differentiates himself as the real deal, and a lot of hand-wringing and outrage in the camp of the Asturian samurai, and perhaps a rethink of the current driver line up strategy.
To be clearer, Vandoorne could be the best of the young drivers, and if there is a competitive Honda engine, I expect him to win!
The good news is, McLaren should have come across the majority of the pain, the bad news is, now they have the hard part, getting on top!

61

What will prevent McLaren from a perenial middle pack fate such as Williams? There are lots of variables, perhaps the biggest is the post Bernie era or Liberty era. They just seem so uninspired and cobbled together at this time. For the short term, the biggest opportunity is in the Honda power unit, if that comes good, then they can fight at the front.

62
Thread the Needle

No doubt McLaren are getting faster and starting to move forwards towards the front of the grid just need more from the engine, hopefully next year they are at the front

The interesting thing for me is the Alonso and Vandoorne partnership because it's going to show just how good Vandoorne is, coming in for one race and scoring a point was mighty impressive especially in that car and I know toto Wolff rates him highly but now he needs to show he's up to Alonso's standard

63

Shame checo was bullied out of the picture for showing up the local lad.He would have probably found a warmer welcome now.

64

2016 was a mad year for Mclaren.
Alonso doing his 'A Team' van roll and Ron Dennis being ousted. Stoffel showing his skill on the track. Button leaving. The car itself is slowly coming along. 2016 overall was a poor year. But hopefully 2017 maybe the turning point. Let's hope so. They may have defrocked Ron from Mclaren. I don't think The Emperor is Dead and may rise and come back to haunt Woking in a Vampire way 😉 All Hail Ron !

65

Thanks James for this insightful analysis.
Something jarring about Mclaren, is that it looks to be operating as two teams under the guise of one. Woking and Tokyo. We've heard over the past two seasons, completely different assessments of the team's performance from both bases, giving the impression that either a) one is lying or b) that both are lying and haven't the slightest clue as to why the performance deficit exists or how it can be eradicated.
With Dennis ousted, and the Middle Eastern shareholders increasing their stake, there's an even greater chance that those who are calling the shots will have an even smaller ability to run a successful racing operation.
Axing a man who's won championships through numerous regulation changes in favour of a "commerical expert" typifies the aimless hit and hope strategy, held of late by Mclaren.
As much as I believe we would all appreciate a returned to form Mclaren, there's little to suggest they'll hit anywhere near top form in 2017.

66

Ditto. Spot on Rob 1.
My sentiments entirely .

67

Here is the Ferrari V10 Carbon MTB.

Based on a carbon fiber Trek frame, URT rear triangle, which I love for the simplicity and feel. Moded for rear disc and modern shock plus custom paint job with white pinstripe. Light air based shocks front and rear, finished I estimate 22lb weight.

V10 because it will be Vitesses: 10! 3x10 speed Shimano XT black groupo with disc brakes. Black Mavic wheels. White iPhone 4s on a special headset mount in wide screen mode above stem for GPS and speedo will act as bike computer. Plus let me run F1 App and go for a ride durring a Grand Prix not stuck in front of a TV. After all, this will be a Sunday only bike. I will have a small bluetooth speaker under the front of the stem perhaps. Still undecided if I should stick the Shell and Vodafone decals on it. Right now I'm leaning towards not. Slick one of a kind. It's looking good so far.

decom_20161228_193830_58646501f3e27.jpgdecom_20161228_193830_58646501f3e27.jpg
68

Really neat Sebee. Ring up Shell and tell them you will put their logo on for a small fee- such as tickets to Monza.

Thats a but more flash than my 20 yo mountain bike that I was hit by a car on in Feb14. Replaced the wheel , rear gear set, pedals, brakes & handlebars and still going now!.

Maybe we can have an intercontinental race comparing stats on an interactive fitness app one day.👍

69

It is now almost all built up, and it looks stunning. Really does. I made some good choices, if I may say so! 🙂 I have the decals already, here is a mockup of it with F1 decals. I don't think it looks bad. I just think it doesn't necessarily looks better. Certainly not cleaner. Tough choice. Though it absolutely looks more F1ish! No doubt what's going on with those 2 decals. I may as well stick a Michael Schumacher signature decal on it at that point.

Don't the apps have to have the bike on a trainer to measure watt output? What app would you use ideally for outdoor purpose to gather data? Would have to be a GPS app right, that would grab distance, average speed, top speed, etc. Right?

decom_20170101_094453_5869186b8dce2.jpgdecom_20170101_094453_5869186b8dce2.jpg
70

Decals do add a bit of flair. Yeah Speed, distance, average Etc - I'd have to find a suitable app. But hey find me on Twitter -same name add "ant.... on the Kimi sites if stuck.Not coming here once replied last few posts. Regards to all the regulars

71

Elie, I'm not in Twitter.

Twitter will fail magnificently as a company, probably this year. And it will be my absence alone that brings the whole thing down! 🙂

72

Will there be a special bracket for attaching the playing card in the wheel, or will you use the traditional clothes peg method?

73

I make my own V10 sounds!

74

Mighty impressed with the bike, so thanks for posting it.

Could we get a post of you doing V10 sounds next?

76

Here is my bike. Isn't it great. Everybody look at my great bike.

77

Well said Speedy 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

78

You have to pass the off season somehow. Can't make it on F1 conspiracy theories alone.

79

Ice cream, anyone?

80

😂

81

Let's hope i wont let you down during a descent .

82

It's a very solid and reliable frame design. A lot of very strong carbon fiber here. But if something does happen, I'll do my best Vettel over radio impression.

83

I'm intrigued who you'd blame it on, if the frame did break: Charlie, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Kvyat? Or all 4 combined in one big, super conspiracy..........

84

Happy 14th birthday!

85

😂😂😂😂😂😂
Yep 14 indeed.

86

So easy to feel young. 🙂

87

Dude forget sorting out the frame and structure your sentences or you may have explain what you mean at your local police station. 😂😂😂😂

88

You're going to go riding while watching an F1 race? Hope you have comprehensive private medical. Or maybe you don't ride hard? 😉

The frame: very nice. Add 200% to the cost for having a Ferrari badge though. Unless you did it yourself?

89

...oh, I did see the Ferrari CX60 for 499GBP. It's not the best bike out there, but very decent for that price.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with it for that price. In fact, it's a very good value. I just wanted something little different. Something I one of kind I put extra work into. Something I could label V10! 🙂

Here is that Ferrari CX60 link.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B001U0O8YS/ref=pd_aw_sim_sbs_200_3/255-0323733-3395202?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DW95KRVKEXWS9XPV72D5

90

Just timing in the app or live commentary. You can't watch a screen while you ride. Is there any radio commentary still done by anyone on the planet?

91

BBC still does live radio 📻 commentary - both quali and the race 🏁 . Not sure whether it's available outside U.K. - probably online. There's bound to be a radio app available so you can listen on your phone 📱

92

Sweet, thank you C63. I'm thinking it may be fun to listen to commentary while riding outside, or at the beach. 🙂

93

Heard it to many times.. l'll believe it when l see it. You won't win no world championships while Honda is driving that car.

94

While I'd like to believe it, I really don't think Mclaren will make much progress next year. For instance, what about losing ExxonMobil? Surely that must have an effect on them. Why did they let them go James?

I think it'll take a miracle for Mclaren to even win one race next year on pace. The disjointed management at the top shows things are fractious, and as they say, a fish rots from the head first. Their only hope is that Honda designs a groundbreaking engine.. and I somehow doubt that'll happen anytime soon. I would not be surprised if they ran out of WDC drivers after next year also.

95

It’s a real shame that Button and Alonso, two former world champions, have had to drive around in dud cars for the last two years without even a podium between them let alone a race win. How demoralising that must be. Give them both credit however for the manner in which they have handled the situation. Alonso has repeatable said that he has no regrets about leaving Ferrari but will Honda/McLaren be able to deliver him a better package to compete for race wins in 2017? Great driver but I think his much coveted 3rd WDC might just be out of reach.

96

It should have been relatively easy for a team like McLaren to make the performance gains necessary to move through the mid-field. The next step, into the top-tier will be much more difficult.

97

I don't know much of the new management but something had to give. Ron Dennis led the team to mid-field, as well as the lack of a title sponsor (budget). His mis-management of Alonso back in 2007 was a major blunder as well as "letting" Lewis Hamilton go. This has to be McLaren's last throw of the dice - otherwise they could be like Williams, mired in the midfield - or worse, go the way of Tyrrell. Lotus and Brabham - die a slow death. A lot depends on Honda - while I hope they will come good, I am not sure of their ability to produce an engine with sufficient "grunt" to really challenge/dominate.

98

I don't see this team being top 3 for a long time. Has everyone forgotten Eric Boullier jumped ship from Lotus/Renault after introdicing that camel toe car that went no where? They need guidance from someone like Ross brawn. As for Ferrari, they seem to have no direction, Seb Vettel seems to be running the team, drivers are being threatened to perform. They're going no where.

99

As a fan of both Button and Alonso, experiencing the grief they went through in 2015 was all but unbearable for me to watch. Though some tout 2016 as a big step forward, only due to Alonso's exemplary season did McHonda manage to be designated midfielder status but in reality that is a stretch.

Empty promises are the norm from this team. I've heard Bouiller claim "this track doesn't suit us" so many times that I hear it in my sleep. What tracks do suit them?
He also claimed it would take 3 years to be able to fight for a championship, now it has become 5.

Button has had all he can stand and Alonso has wasted 2 precious years and his best years are now gone. My only hope is if during next season's testing, if McHonda is several seconds behind the front runners as will likely be the case, Alonso will walk.

Honda's arrogance and ineptness have robbed Alonso fans and F1 in general a lot of enjoyment. Maybe they are the largest producer of engines in the world, but they have failed miserably in this case.

100

Ron Dennis was past it. His strength in the past was the professionalism, efficiency and corporate stability while many teams were still glorified privateers.

His pettiness over having a 21degree room temperature (way too hot for physical labour) and maximun cleanliness, even down to the lightbulbs, is plain stupid. Such practises creates a culture that employees are 'housekeepers' rather than human beings who's creativity and problem solving ability are needed to improve the team.

The guy is basically a walking and talking corporate text book - and not in a good way. I recall he said that he stays upto date with Harvard business school papers on business efficiency and maximising human potential when such academic corporate stuff is robotic and stiffles creativity.

The success of Red Bull and Mercedes with their more flexible operations culture has delivered success while the corporate types of Ferrari and McLaren have floundered.

101
Anthony Mars Jenkins

Things ARE looking up. At least for now. In Alonso and Vandoorne the team have a very formidable lineup. For me, Alonso is the best on the grid and I think Vandoorne ( who looked better than Hamilton in their one head-to-head ) should be good and may prove great.
Stumbling blocks have been Honda and Ron Dennis. The later is gone but not replaced by any visionary or leader in the Brawn mode. Just marketers and suits. And Honda have yet to make the leap into the upper tier. I hope it doesn't take them another year- for Alonso's sake and that of the sport.

At least we will be spared tortured pre-season rosy predictions from Ron.

102

James, is the talk of Mclaren's chassis as third best coming from engineers within the sport, or is it Mclaren's PR BS? It seems they often tried to pile everything on their PU partner when underperforming. Sure, the Honda unit isn't the best, but surely it isn't all to blame. It seems the chassis had rear suspension issues.

103
Tornillo Amarillo

I have hopes for Vandoorne, only...
Hope he can go to Merc or Ferrari in the near future. I guess he is capable of beating Max, yes that high.

104

Amazing!- any driver that has an accident be it their fault or not gets ridiculed endlessly. Alonso literally runs up the back of another car and its no big deal- in fact hes still praised.

I think Mclaren will step up in 2017 because they had early look into formulating the new regs.,probably not podiums but likely just off it. their chassis this year was brilliant.

Lets wait & see the politics fly as Alonso starts manipulating the operations to get what he wants. Last thing he needs is be beaten by another rookie again and Stoffel definitely has the talent to do it. Will Alonso allow it- I very much doubt it. Look for an understeering front end and a bucket full of marbles at the rear, so we can all see how good Fernando is at driving around "features" he uses to keep team mates at bay..

105

Stoffel will do a Lewis on Alonso.
Max V will beat DR.
Kimi will beat Vettel.
Lewis will be tops at Mercedes.
Sainz will be at Red Bull in 2018.

106

and the pope will be the first human to swim the trans-atlantic

107

@Elie That's right folks, you guessed correctly. This guy has been butthurt over Alonso for years.

108

@James Allen- Did this just slip the radar ?
Is this language acceptable by this site??

109

@James Allen I'd like to note something here. I used a turn of phrase that is common now, but I would like to enlighten anyone who bothers to read what Elie has said. He bothered to write twice about my 'language'. This same person wrote a comment that wasn't even published here. The system shows the comment in my email, but it was never published because I'm guessing it was too vile.

The words Elie used were downright embarrassing and not once did I mention it on here or call attention to it. But this thoughtless, spiteful little man chooses to act as though he is blameless and a victim. I still have the email from your site of his post and it was just last week.

While I'm glad you responded to his comment James, if you glanced at the comments this guy has had blocked, you'd see much worse. I'll gladly accept criticism if I'm in the wrong, but not from someone who is guilty of far worse.

111

Where is my clear & reasonable reply James.. that's the last thing I want to see on this site. thank you very much

112

No its well over...& you know it..

113

@Mod- You allowing "Butthurt" from guys with a handle like "CheesyPoof". Maybe hes Alonsos secret love

114

I think you are both getting carried away, calm down children!!

115
Clarks4WheelDrift

It'll be really interesting to see how good the Stoff is, especially up against Nando on Saturday and especially lap after relentless lap on Sundays.

Interesting as many journos portray Stoff as the only newbie that is the match of Max, plus Stoff has more years under his belt.

I'm afraid McLaren are no longer one of the big teams, as per Williams.

McLaren's glaring problem is the Honda PU, again so slowww like at Suzuka, but also the new managment impact. What on earth happened with Ron, the watch guy and the other shareholders group. This must have an impact of the workforce for next year.

Slick Zak needs to focus everything on McLaren working and not on how their struggles are portrayed in a nicely spun light to the media, or not how commercially he thinks F1 can improve its show etc.

...and Honda need to have employed Harry Potter.

116

how this team performs next season is of vital importance to the health of f1

if Honda can't make a competitive engine after development gets opened up then no manufacturer will want to touch f1 with a ten foot pole unless they were mercedes owned

117

Honda were the ones that made the real 'spurious' claims in tempting ALO there in the first place under false pretences. Thanks to their woeful and embarrassing inadequecies we've had to watch one of the drivers of a generation and an all time great at the back of the grid. Unless they produce an equal engine to Merc in 2017 they should continue to be viewed as a joke for taking away excitement from F1 rather than adding to it. Like him or not F1 has needed ALO at the sharp end this past season or two

118

I don't see anything to be proud about for McLaren in their 2016 campaign. It was only because the previous year was so utterly disastrous that 2016 can be viewed in any sort of positive light, but they are as far from being competitive as any worse-case scenario could have predicted when the McHonda project was initiated. I think they'll probably be slightly more competitive in 2017 and should occasionally be able to get amongst the top 5, but it gets harder to close the gap at the sharp end of the grid, and Alonso will be as far from his 3rd title as ever.

119

Conditions look right for McLaren to be the biggest movers in 2017. Honda get to redesign their engine completely and correct any conceptual flaws and their aero looks to be constantly improving. Plus they have the great Alonso and the potential of Vandoorne. Would look for Renault to make big improvements also.

120

It's going to be interesting. Honda will hopefully have learned although it's not clear to me what can and can't be done this year with regards to engines- I mean PU's. Last year they could only make small changes (tokens) but this year seems to be different.

Ron clearly setup the team in a good way with the chassis and if Honda delivers, Zak can benefit from this straight away. And if it all goes pear shaped then they can blame Ron. 🙂

I hope we'll see more of Alonso at the front and it will be very interesting to see how Stoffel holds up against him.

121

Having been a lifetime supporter of Ron Denis and Mc Claren I just cannot see them progressing fast without Rons participation. Ok, he made an error of judgement going to the Rising Sun for engines but this error is forgivable, and theirs lots of time left in Rons life to recover and make good, and shop around for a better power unit.

122

What alot of people seem to forget is that Honda 1st return to f1 in 1983 with the Swift team, before joining Williams in 1984 to 87 during this time they developed there engine and should really have won at least one more wdc with Williams. Before they joined with McLaren in 88 and dominating that season.

Everyone seemed to to think they would instantly be on the pass last year because of the previous partnership. My point is it took them several years of development to reach the heights of 88, and that was in the days of unlimited testing and development these things take time. It was the same with the Williams Renault era, the current Mercedes era and the ferrari era. All took time and several years to become the dominant force in F1.

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