Paddock magazine December 2014 / January 2015 Issue 70 - Page 62

SEASON REVIEW McLaren: The end of an era For a brief moment at the start of the 2014 season, it appeared as if McLaren was back among the frontrunners. The joy was brief and the powers at Woking have a lot to do before the Formula 1 circus returns in March. The rebuilding at McLaren began even before the Mercedes V6 power unit was started for the first time. Ron Dennis regained control of the company and Martin Whitmarsh was fired faster than one could pronounce “McLaren Technology Centre.” The double podium at the season opener was a welcome bonus, but the focus of Dennis’s actions was the launch of a second successful chapter with Honda. Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button had their bright moments during the 2014 season, but neither was deemed good enough to lead the second coming of McLaren Honda. The choice of McLaren’s new team leader, however, is rather surprising: Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s first spell at McLaren finished prematurely after a severe conflict with Dennis himself. The absence of Lewis Hamilton will certainly improve the situation but is the relationship truly mended? Can Dennis trust Alonso after his involvement in the unravelling of the Spygate scandal? Will Alonso risk once again being the outsider at Woking? Those are not the only questions to be answered. 62 Who will partner Alonso (once the Spaniard’s return is finally officially confirmed)? Kevin Magnussen started the season well in Melbourne but his form has since deteriorated and similarly to Sergio Perez in 2013, the young Dane has failed to beat his more experienced teammate in the Drivers’ Championship. Button still has a lot to give but with both him and Alonso being on the wrong side of 30, a partnership between the two world champions will not last long and very soon McLaren and Honda will be out looking for another driver. With seats on the grid being very scarce, Magnussen can hardly afford to hang around waiting for a second chance, while Stoffel Vandoorne is also pushing for a race seat. There is an abundance of talent at Woking, so whoever ends up partnering Alonso will certainly do a good job. The real question mark is the 2015 car. Peter Prodromou, one of the masterminds behind Red Bull Racing’s stunning aerodynamics, joined the team as Chief Engineer. RBR, however, made sure Prodromou would not start at McLaren early enough to have a tangible input on the 2015 car.