Three whole years. Three of the bleakest, most testing times of an F1 dynasty. For three years McLaren struggled along with an underperforming Honda engine, confined to the back of the grid almost exclusively. However, after a promising introductory year with Renault and an all new driver line-up it could be a promising second half of the season ahead.
Losing Fernando Alonso, who was the cornerstone of the last four years, was seen as a shocking move. He wanted to leave F1 given his aspirations to gain the coveted Triple Crown, which was best for both parties. On the other hand, second driver Stoffel Vandoorne struggled for two years to really get his head in the game. The two new drivers they managed to get on board for this new season have been a breath of fresh air.
Former Renault and Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz has been commanding the 'best of the rest title' for the last few races, gaining a string of fifth-place finishes and being disappointed at not getting the podium position in the action-packed German Grand Prix. His compadre for this season, Lando Norris, has really hit the ground running following his promotion from Formula 2. Granted he hasn’t had the fortune that Sainz has had this year, following retirements in Spain, Canada and Germany, but nonetheless he has still had good finishes, the best of which were a pair of sixth places in Bahrain and Austria.
Promising times ahead
Carlos Sainz: 7th (58 Points)
Lando Norris: 10th (24 Points)
Constructors Standings: 4th (82 Points)
At this current moment McLaren are the best of the rest in terms of championship standing, a place that they will be wanting to keep. The likes of Renault and Racing Point are probably the best candidates for the role, however any team around them could make a charge for the position.
There is still a clear gulf in class between them and the likes of Red Bull. Even Sainz himself admitted this in an interview with Autosport, but McLaren have made progress. To go from having a car that struggled to get out of Q1, a driver who detested the very car he drove and Eric Boullier's departure to what they have now, in the matter of just over a season, it quite remarkable.
The man who took over from Boullier, Andreas Seidl, seems to have things under control. Only appointed in May after working as the Porsche LMP1 team principal, winning everything under the endurance sun and working with some of the best drivers in the world of motorsport, he has turned the ship around from what the results are telling us. He also has some experience in F1 back in 2006 when he was part of the team at BMW Sauber during one of the most prosperous times in Sauber’s F1 life. However his job is far from being done.
On the grid things are going well for the papaya-orange clad team and in the paddock, things are equally as perky. The relationship between Sainz and Norris is something that many F1 teams want to have, keeping a harmony among the team that was scarcely seen in F1 over the last few years. Red Bull and Force India (from the 2018 season) would have relished a good relationship between their drivers. The whole team seems to have come together after last season’s turbulence.
As an enterprise they seem to be growing too: in early August they announced a partnership with Arrow Schmidt-Peterson Indy Car team. This expansion has the potential to be huge for both Indy Car and F1, possibly allowing some Indy drivers the chance to test F1 cars and sparking a growth of fans in the US for next season.
The only real test for McLaren for the rest of the season will be to see if they are able to keep their title of best of the rest. With tracks such as Spa and Monza coming up, typically both tracks with long straights demanding lots of straight-line speed, they could struggle a bit more than they have recently. Ferrari have the real edge it seems with straight-line speed and Mercedes are very confident in their engine too. Racing Point, Haas and Alfa Romeo could all give McLaren a run for their money.
Overall things are going well and look to be continuing that way. Having both Norris and Sainz tied down to contracts for the next season will be a massive boost and the lack of silly season dealings should help to keep peace, unlike last year. It is great to see them climbing again.