McLaren planning to #bebrave as new Renault powered F1 car runs for first time
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Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Feb 2018   |  5:47 pm GMT  |  176 comments

Of all the F1 teams going into this 2018 season, arguably the one with most curiosity around it is McLaren.

That’s because F1’s second most experienced team has dumped its Honda engine supplier for Renault and many pundits are asking whether that is enough to propel them into the fight with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes at the front.

Red Bull won three races last season with the Renault customer engine and many podiums so the target has to be that for McLaren this year, as they pride themselves on their chassis.

The team has used the hashtag #bebrave around this new car launch and first shakedown test today – they’ve clearly challenged themselves to live up to that. At all levels they have something to prove.

I could never understand how the technical chiefs at McLaren could have got to the launch and first shakedown of the 2017 car without realising that there were catastrophic problems with the Honda engine. Communication was clearly not good between Japan and the UK.

Incidentally this period is very well captured in the four part behind the scenes documentary series “Grand Prix Driver’, which is now available on Amazon Prime.

The wraps came off McLaren’s new 2018 car today, the MCL33 and it harks back to McLaren’s roots with a colour scheme of papaya orange with blue accent colours. It’s going to be hard to miss it on TV or from the grandstands.

Lead driver Fernando Alonso referred to it as ‘a very important car for McLaren’ and he’s not kidding. Fail with this car, after all the pain and upheaval of the divorce from Honda (not to mention the expense) and the management team of Zak Brown, Eric Boullier and Jonathan Neale will have some serious questions to answer to the long-suffering shareholders.

The trio has something to prove.

We will find out in the coming weeks whether its anywhere near to bridging the performance gap between the top three and the rest that was more of a gulf than a gap in reality.


Everyone is looking to McLaren and to the works Renault team for that and I’d expect them to be competing with Force India and Williams for fourth place this year.

The Italians have a wonderful word, “curatissima”, which means that it something is very highly studied, intricate, developed and that certainly applies to some of the detail work on the leading cars we have seen so far, including this McLaren.

That’s no surprise as Adrian Newey’s long time trusted lieutenant on aerodynamics Peter Prodromou is behind this car and he has something to prove, having decided to come out of his mentor’s shadow and take a leading role at McLaren just as they tanked with Honda.

He is very highly motivated to show that his work at McLaren can reach the heights of what was achieved at Red Bull during the quadruple title winning years.

As for the sponsors, there are some new names on the car, but no big names on the car in terms of the scale of new sponsorship. The nose features Alonso’s brand Kimoa, which is clearly something he negotiated into his new deal, perhaps accepting that as a contra for a lower salary in the post Honda subsidy era.

Alonso will be busy this season with his Le Mans and WEC series commitments with Toyota (that will go some way to boosting his income) and one would expect him to push to the limit every time he’s in the F1 car as he too has something to prove. He wants to win races and certainly to feature on the podium. Last year only one podium place was won by a driver outside the top three teams; Stroll’s in Baku. Alonso has regular podiums in mind for 2018.

His relationship with Renault will be vital – even if the faces in the Renault Sport leadership team are different from the ones he knew during his two stints with the team.

Stoffel Vandoorne also has something to prove. He fell short of the level he was aiming for last season, certainly for the first part of the year. His performances have to be judged on the basis that there were numerous times when Alonso was given a new part ahead of him, but still he knows he can – and must – do better.

So quite a few people with something to prove. In motorsport that together with strong resources is usually a winning combination. It will be interesting to see where McLaren ends up at season’s end.

What do you think? Can McLaren win or get podiums? Leave your comment in the section below


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1

#BEBRAVE …. to drive it with wheels falling off and Brown making decisions……

poor start so far no matter how they try to spin it.

2

I think we will see an epic battle between RedBull and McLaren. Equal engines, equal technical expertise in aerodynamics and I suspect also an equal philosophy (downforce first, straight line speed second) and similar possibilities in terms of the factories. Really this will be a battle between the aero folks lead by Newey and Prodromou. I do think, however, that Red Bull might have the edge because they have more experience with Renault and deeper pockets.

3

God I’m sick of this hashtag stuff. #whocares?

Looking forward to seeing a more competitive McLaren this year. I love their new livery.

4

I know it’s something ridiculous petty and insignificant but I really dislike that fact the halo on this Mclaren is black! Why couldn’t they make it orange or at least blue. Ruins the look of the car for me!

5

“How much more black could it be and the answer is none. None more black”. Nigel Tuffnel, Spinal Tap.

6

I think to make predictions is pointless before the first Grand Prix’s start. It is very interesting to look at McLaren with Renault in collaboration, but there are lots of factors that are independent from the MCL33. Take external circumstances: traffic on the racetrack, other races tracks, because we will go not only to Barcelona. Tests are just an attempt to understand what MCL33 can, just an attempt. Thank you very much for the article, well written.

7

theatre people do ” break a leg”, i guess mclaren does “bust a nut”.

8

“Be Brave” seems pretty spot-on at the moment….!

Is the wheel coming off a metaphor for the rest of the season?

9

Absolutely love the papaya orange, I never understood why Ron Dennis was so reluctant to play on history like that. Does anybody else dislike the flecks of blue though? It doesn’t seem to fit with the orange very well and makes the car look a tad like “backmarker” colours in my opinion.

Having said that, wasn’t it Ron Dennis that said the most beautiful car is the one that finishes first? Hoping for a serious McLaren revival this year.

As for the Amazon doc, I have seen episode 1 and it is sad as it feels similar to Ferrari when they lost Enzo. I’m not sure it was wise to eradicate Ron as brutally as that, but having said that I do feel like they have a structure in place now that will allow them to succeed.

10

So far I’d say the jury is out on post-Ron McLaren. It could go either wzy.

11

Is it just me or there is something weird with how comments are displayed? There was a threaded view where it was clear who is responding to what comment. Now it is hard to figure out what answers belong to what post. Is it like this by design? It was intended to be like this?

12

We haven’t changed anything

13

@ James…I beg to differ. The comments right here have no ‘reply’ box, effectively either gagging any ongoing response or it serves to acknowledge an ongoing variation to how the thread operates!

14

We have a problem with decomments plugin. It caused the issue last week which is now resolved re emails and is now not performing properly

We are looking into a swift solution

15

@JA

Well something seems to be very wrong James.

16

@ James Allen – Well, the comments system has definitely changed. Previously responses to a comment were indented directly below the original comment to form a thread. Now it seems they are posted in random order.

17

I hope for McLaren sake with the Renault power in their car now, they can a least beat Toro Rosso Honda team.If Honda does produce the goods and beat McLaren its not going look good.McLaren blame all the woes to Honda but they too should take some respondent too.Watching the Grand prix show I just got that felling their was poor communication between the two parties(McLaren/Honda)

18

If TR Honda were to beat McLaren i imagine that a big name or two would be shown the door at MTC! However TR have rookie drivers against the mighty Alonso and his sidekick but you never know!

19

Just watched the Grand Prix Driver series on Amazon Prime, well worth the free week of subscription 😄

Amazing to watch the slow motion train wreck of the McClaren-Honda partnership in 2017. I was astounded with what appeared to be the lack of culture and communication between UK & Japan. Never once saw a McClaren employee speaking Japanese, the Japanese only turned up with the boxed engine, and poor English. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a full time Japanese presence in the McClaren factory and a Japanese/English speaking McLaren team in Japan. Incredible how naive they all were. A team of £100millon pound budgets and just waiting for parts and engines to arrive like waiting for a birthday card from grandma. No sense of communication was observed from the documentary. I’ll bet RBR and TR have learnt that lesson.

Still having said that, I really feel for McClaren now and I like the people and drivers even more after that doco. I would never have thought myself really a team fan, really just an Aussie driver fan. But after DR…McClaren is the team I’m going for this year. I really hope they do well.

20

I’m sure there was communication. Eric Bullier would say something like “build us a better engine.” And Honda would reply “we’re trying”

21

The Amazon series on McLaren is quite interesting. I do wish they would have had more on the design of the car, not mostly the logistics of assembling the car. Many parts of the factory I think were not shown which is a pity. It did shown what a professional and big business the sport has become. Hope they do well this year.

22

Moderators, question please? I rarely feel moved to comment on anything – rarely feel I have much to add – but on the few occasions I have done so over the past year, my comments have not appeared. This was the case yesterday. Have I been blocked for some reason? I am not aware of having ever said anything which would attract such a block.

23

No not st all

We got this one and here it is

24

Should see new lap records at every track this year. Finally beat the times from 2004.

25

Same power, heavier car.

I doubt it.

26

Softer tyres so maybe.

27

About the same peak power and lighter, but significantly worse torque curve with grooved tires and less aerodynamic knowledge on newer tarmac (unless the track gets a new surface). Plus there is no refueling, so if a driver has enough fuel left, because of a safety car and has some new soft tires on, there’s a chance to break the lap record. In qualifying it’ll often be close though.

28

Mick, more power from new engines, another year of aero development on wider cars and softer tyres from pirelli, so probably.

29

Not so sure. Added weight of the halo, which also elevates the center of gravity, could work to stop faster laptimes.

30

It was fascinating in the Grand Prix Driver series to see the reactions when the engine wouldn’t start….priceless!

I also enjoyed the discussion featuring yourself and other journalists James about the whole debacle with the Honda engine and was wondering if you had any plans for something similar in future?

It could be like the Sunday Supplement on SkySports and I think F1 fans would enjoy respected journalists having a discussion about the big topics in F1.

Thanks

31

No plans

I may do some video chats with Jon Noble, Piola etc on Motorsport.com during the season

32

@ wayne

Oh no, no matter how good a power unit is, you still need a human to drive it hence guts will definitely play a role

33

What guts? Downhill skiers have guts, these guys are strapped into a high security carbon shell with a head and neck support, high security helmets, surrounded by protective foam and a titanium roll cage, driving on circuits with parking lot sized run-off-areas and high tech barriers in a car that can hardly roll over on their own, because they are super wide with a low center of gravity.

Compare that to people who throw themselves down an icy hill on two planks, going up to 100 mph, wearing nothing but Spandex, goggles and a light helmet and surrounded by lose net fences with sturdy trees behind.

The days when F1 drivers were modern heroes are long gone.

34

@ kenneth

Actually the long gap between wins is not a good sign because the longer it takes, the harder it becomes.

Also don’t forget Alonso will be 37 in 2018

35

@ Goferet…I would support your theory in general as it applies to a lot of drivers. however we are talking about Alonso here…….

36

It is nostalgic, that is for sure.

It would be great if it could glow during night races.

I don’t care for the blue and think black would look better.

I still think the Richard Mille livery would be a lot more striking, especially with this orange.

37

I’ve never thought of Boullier as a team leader. But the trio of Boullier, Brown & Neale are now on borrowed time. Screw things up this year and I think it’s all over for them.

Ron Dennis took all the blame conveniently for them but I wonder is he waiting in the wings biding his time, so that his legacy doesn’t get thrown away.

Alonso for me is on his last chance to get that third championship and I still believe his focus should be entirely on F1 this year. The amount of moaning he did last year says to me he still has a lot to prove. If he moans this year, get rid. There’s too much talent waiting for an F1 drive to put up with Alonso’s diva shenanigans!

38

I could never understand how the technical chiefs at McLaren could have got to the launch and first shakedown of the 2017 car without realising that there were catastrophic problems with the Honda engine. Communication was clearly not good between Japan and the UK.

If you remember how confused Honda were last year and how much they struggled at finding a workable solution (where solving one problem did not lead to a new issue arising) then you can say that they themselves were likely shocked at how badly their re-designed PU turned out in 2017 — especially in winter testing.

To add: their jibe at McLaren after the divorce was announced, where the Japanese manufacturer claimed the Woking based team was “not open to change”, was a testament to just how much Honda did not understand their direness of the situation.

(And exactly what “change” were they referring to? That Macca accept they will never become a championship winning team ever again, and have to “enjoy/appreciate” being a mid-field team at best for the rest of their days; the way Honda did in the mid-2000s???)

To put it, I would say McLaren-Honda 2.0 was similar to BMW-Williams in the 2000s– albeit much worse. If you remember, from 2001 – 2005 BMW was producing the most powerful V10s on the gird, but their partner (Williams F1 Team) were unable to capitalize on it due to ho-hum chassis design. And therefore the partnership was frustratingly never able to mount a convincing championship assault (except maybe 2003). Whenever BMW offered to lend their vehicle engineering expertise to the Grove outfit, they were consistently rebuked and angrily told to stick to their side of the bargain (engine). Sound familiar (Honda always refused McLaren’s help)? We all know how that ended.

39

I’ve had a brief chat once with a BMW guy who was involved in BMWs Formula-1 effort and it was rather shocking to hear from him, as a BMW guy, that “BMW came in like a typical OEM: Arrogant and full of themselves”. Granted, they had a good engine, but according to him they thought they’d knew better almost everywhere, while they didn’t seem to understand Williamses “skunk works” way of operation. And we all know how that turned out: They tried to buy Williams and Williams said “No”, so they bought Sauber to do it their own way and pulled the plug when it didn’t work out the way they thought it would. And who’s still there? Williams. And guess who managed to win a few Titles? Williams. And who never got to win a title? BMW.

40

Honda were referring to the McLaren size zero concept, where McLaren expected Honda to work within the space confines offered by the McLaren designers.

Had Honda been allowed to utilize the space required to fit their desired designs, & McLaren build the car around that size, the outcome may well have been vastly different.

41

James,

What’s happening with the site??

First I get everybody’s posts, and now I’m not getting any! And I’ve had a few replies to my posts, but can only see them when I scroll through the whole comments section. Plus, it’s strange that some posts, you can’t even reply!

42

@james k and James A,

Same here. The absence of the red Reply button occurs from the 3rd level in the tree it would seem. I.e., reply to original post is possible, reply to such a reply is possible, but reply to a reply to a reply to a post is impossible.

43

@JamesK

Same here.

44

@james k…You are not alone.

45

Good looking car! I wondered why McLaren went with that dark orange colour last year – if they were harking back to their heritage surely papaya orange should have been the colour? As nice as the colour is I hope we will see less of it as time goes – i.e. hope they get some sponsors to fill in those wide open orange spaces.

46

Love this colour scheme. My favourite this season, it looks amazing on track.

So long as it’s all Orange and not a lemon, I think they can challenge the top 4 this season. Let’s hope they get some good mileage in Spain testing this year, I really want to see them in the mix and Alonso performing up the front where he deserves to be.

47

Good post. Which begs a question here that I have yet to see or read: What are the odds Alonso gets a win this year?

48

Anything below fourth with at least a few podiums will be a massive failure in my opinion. How can it be acceptable for a team like Mclaren with all their funding to be fighting with Force India when Red Bull-Renault are miles up the road?

Frankly if McLaren cannot compete with Red Bull, it will show that their designers and technical stuff are clearly not up to it.

49

McLaren fan or not, it’s in the best interest of F1 to have them back fighting at the front with Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. Remember some seasons ago when the first 6 (?) races were all won by different teams? We need more of that.

50

This year could be similar. I don’t expect Merc to dominate, I do expect Ferrari, Red Bull, and McLaren to get plenty of wins this season. Maybe even Renault could get a win.

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