McLaren F1: 2017 Season Preview
To move into the future, the MCL32 features a big nod to the past. (Image Credit: McLaren F1)

Orange is the new black. Well, sort of. After months of teasing, McLaren have finally unveiled their 2017 Formula 1 car, the MCL32, with a nod to the past.

In the early days of Bruce’s team, Papaya orange was the chosen colour, and the team, post Ron Dennis, have opted to go back to its roots, with a dash of black and white also thrown in for good measure.

There is a lot of hope on the MCL32. After a solid, if not spectacular 2016, the team rose from ninth to sixth in the constructors’ and Fernando Alonso was arguably star of the season.

Drives to seventh in both Belgium and Malaysia from the back of the grid were standout, and Jenson Button provided excellent support in what proved to be his final season racing.

Having not won a race since Brazil 2012, McLaren-Honda must now deliver. Honda has redeveloped its power unit and the chassis in recent times has been among the best on the grid.

The time is now. The team now must deliver. Failure is not an option.

The Car

Aside from the paint-job, the most striking aspect to the MCL32 is the complex aerodynamic tricks the team have opted for.

On the nose, there are a series of slots, unseen on any other car so far. These will be used to channel air under the front of the car, through the S-Duct, over the chassis, to the diffuser.

Moving back, the barge-boards and sidepod area of the MCL32 has been aggressively focussed on by designers Tim Goss and Peter Prodromou.

Most noticeable is the small size of the sidepods themselves and also the radiators. The car is tightly packaged, although not as much as in 2015.

Interestingly, there are no slots in the floor of the car, although this could easily be done, if the team see fit.

The shark-fin isn’t as big as on some other cars, and viewed form the rear, comes nicely to a point, with the engine airbox intake somewhat smaller than in comparison to the opposition.

However, doubts remain over the Honda PU, with it still believed to be the weakest of the four, and Honda themselves admitting that the complete redesign of the unit is risky.

Moreover, the car does look bulky. Whether this is a trick of the livery or not will only be found out when the car hits the track in Barcelona on Monday morning.

The Drivers

If not for themselves, McLaren must do better this season to keep happy Fernando Alonso.

The Spanish driver was content with the progress of ’16, but now the team must provide the double World Champion the equipment that he has been lacking, at both McLaren and Ferrari since 2011.

There are still not many better out there than Alonso, and even with the below par equipment he got in ’16, he still hauled himself into the top 10 in the drivers’ and out-performed Button by nearly 30 points.

Perceived by some to be tricky to work with, it is this season that Alonso’s experience will count most. In May 2014, McLaren decided to go for a complete redesign of for the ’15 car, and start again afresh. Now is the time Alonso’s input should begin to pay fruit.

For the sake of Formula 1, let’s hope it pays off.

Stoffel Vandoorne, is the best prepared rookie to come to F1 since Lewis Hamilton in 2007. And who was Hamilton’s team-mate in 2007???

The Belgian has long been on the books of McLaren and dominated GP2 in 2015. Placed in Super Formula in Japan for 2016, mainly to keep him busy, and also to help him bed in with the Honda engineers, Vandoorne is now ready.

He has already made his debut of course, in Bahrain last season, he replaced the injured Alonso, out-qualifying Button and scoring a point.

Vandoorne is in the mould of ‘get in it and go as fast as it will go’, but he is also a team-player.

Undoubtedly, he will be the ‘number 2’ at McLaren this season, in both senses, as he has opted for ‘2’ as his race number, and because of Alonso’s experience. Finally, Fernando is the undisputed ‘Number 1’ at Woking.

Now. What did Double World Champion Alonso want at McLaren in 2007 when faced with a rookie team-mate?

What can they achieve this season?

Despite hope being hyped up, Racing Director Eric Boullier is trying to dampen expectations.

Having not seen a podium since Australia 2014, that must the first goal for the team this season. Regular podium finishes and constant high-scoring points.

You never know, but at somewhere like Monaco, Singapore or in the rain, a surprise might just be sprung, and you can count on Alonso to deliver.

Zak Brown, new executive director, has privately targeted fourth, possibly third in the constructors’ this season as well as trying to secure a new title sponsor, something they have been without since Vodafone quit at the end of 2013.

Did You Know?

Only once, has McLaren failed to qualify both cars for a race. That was in 1983 in Monaco, of all places. Ironically, their most successful track with 12 wins.

John Watson and Niki Lauda struggled with tyre issues and the team didn’t make the top 20. They would bounce back a year later, when Alain Prost took the chequer in the famous rain-shortened race.

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