Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2015

McLaren has worst season for 35 years after Honda reunion

2015 F1 season review

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McLaren team stats 2015

Best race result (number)5 (1)
Best grid position (number) 10 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 11 (10/1)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,698 (78.83%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2014)9 (5)
Championship points (2014)27 (181)
Pit stop performance ranking7

Only halfway through the 2015 season did McLaren admit just how tough their season would be. As late as July racing director Eric Boullier was still talking about finishing on the podium in the second half of the season and Fernando Alonso was expecting a “much more competitive” car.

Did McLaren seriously expect things to get so much better so quickly? They surely realised well before then that fundamental changes to the architecture of Honda’s power unit were needed, and these could not made until until the off-season. Although updates were brought on several occasions during the year it remained dramatically short of power.

And yet, things could have been worse. Honda would have been barred from introducing any upgrades during the season had it not been for a pre-season change in the rules.

They were also given an additional rules break, being permitted to use an additional fifth power unit without incurring a penalty. However this proved little help: Alonso used a dozen engines over the course of the year and the two McLarens racked up 310 grid penalty places – almost as many as the rest of the field combined – mostly due to power unit component changes.

The team were painfully uncompetitive, particularly when the inevitable comparisons were drawn with the unprecedented success of their original tie-up with Honda in 1988. Back then Honda had spent five seasons perfecting their F1 engine, this time they were playing catch-up to rivals who had a head start of several years.

The power unit was the biggest part of a major overhaul of McLaren’s design concept in 2015. The arrival of Peter Prodromou from Red Bull saw the team embrace an aerodynamic philosophy which was visibly much closer to that practised by his former team. This also involved making exacting demands of the dimensions of the Honda in order to fit the car’s ‘size zero’ packaging – a description which suited the often ailing car (the least reliable machine of 2015) all too well.

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Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, Albert Park, 2015
Magnussen substituted for Alonso, then got the boot
Having taken the surprising decision to rehire Alonso, who had parted the team on bad terms seven years earlier, a pre-season crash put the relationship under immediate strain when he contradicted the team’s insistence that the car had not been at fault. Alonso suffered concussion in the crash which ruled him out of the first race weekend of the year.

Kevin Magnussen took his place but the car broke down before he could make it to the grid. Ron Dennis initially praised Magnussen’s efforts, hailing him as the “best reserve driver in Formula One”. But come the end of the season, with world champions occupying both cars and junior racer Stoffel Vandoorne clinching the GP2 champion, Magnussen appeared surplus to requirements and his contract was not renewed. Dennis later claimed Magnussen he had not achieved the targets he had been set.

With just half-a-dozen points finishes all year, McLaren slumped to ninth in the constructors’ championship, its worst finishing position since 1980 (aside from its 2007 exclusion). McLaren’s sustained lack of success – it is now in its longest-ever run without a race win – will directly affect the amount of revenue it received from Formula One Management and has had the same effect indirectly as long-term sponsors have turned away without new ones appearing.

“Of course if we finish way down in the constructors championship that has an impact on prize money for next year,” said the team’s acting CEO Jonathan Neale earlier this year. “But we are fortunate in having a technology group on which we can at least shelter for some of these difficult times.”

“But it’s not something that we can sustain indefinitely.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 10 comments on “McLaren has worst season for 35 years after Honda reunion”

    1. Zero DNF’s from Mechanical reasons?!? Slipped there, @keithcollantine

    2. Since the reason for capping the engine use per season at 5 before grid penalties was to keep costs down, Honda clearly must have been spending a ton of money on the engines this year.

      I would love to know what the real cost was to Honda for supplying all of these engines and components in 2015.

    3. 1980 was the year Ron Dennis bought half of McLaren and he came aboard late in that season to run John Watson’s car. That might be an indicator of how things are at McLaren now with Dennis back at the helm.

    4. This is not good…

    5. Still wonder if it was only the PU. The 2014 chassis wasn’t that great either. I don’t believe you fix that over a season with a radically new design…

    6. I just rewatched Russia race. The McLaren’s closing speed was just embarrasing. At least they finished.

    7. Just 6 comments over the day about the topic about McLaren’s is poor form.!!! wow !!!! It probably says fans have given up on McLaren as a team. Just like how it was happening to Williams. Glorious history but just talks now-a-days !!!!

      I am trying to remember the days when McLaren was genuinely a top car . probably 1999. After that it was just about here and there. While Alonso makes comments about Ferrari being here and there. I think that applies largely to Mclaren after Year 2000. Y2K Bug maybe :) Even the 2007 fast car was dipped in controversies like using the data stolen from Ferrari et all. Somehow got a feeling it was not their genuine development.

      I hope they improve next year atleast a little bit compared to this year.

      1. Not at all, it’s just everyone wishing the team a much better 2016, knowing this was a year consolidating with Honda.

        A team who’s won so many championships, has been around as long as any other barring Ferrari, and their fans ditch them after a season?

        Dreamin’ mate!

    8. It seems Keith is trying to find some good news with the “worst in 35 years” headline :-). Actually, it’s even worse. It is the single worst McLaren season ever, both by the classical 9-6-4-3-2-1 scoring system and by finishing positions achieved, they even scored less than in their first season when they only ran one car. And this is before we take into account increased number of GP’s per year. A fair comparison would work with “points earned per GP” and that would make 2015 look still more disastrous.

      Still, they did have some top-6 finishes, there were quite a few teams in F1 that would be glad to have such result. Let’s hope McLaren now enter the upswing phase. I used to have a soft spot for this team back in the days of James Hunt, it would be nice to see them playing with the big boys again.

    9. The strange part is in the last GP the McLaren car actually showed it could sprint very well, Nasr gave it a bit of a shove and it sped passed Vettel’s Ferrari before taking out Maldonado’s Mercedes powered Lotus. Then they tried to get the “Fastest Lap”, and missed out by a fraction of a second.

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