24 September 2014
McLaren ‘definitely moving forward’ ahead of Honda F1 return
McLaren's internal reshaping is moving the team in the right direction for an F1 resurgence, according to the man in charge of engineering.
Recent results and its position in the F1 constructors' standings may not suggest it, but the feeling within McLaren is that the erstwhile grand prix powerhouse is picking up pace ahead of its reunion with Honda.
The team was unlucky not to get at least a sixth place finish out of last Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, with Jenson Button being forced into retirement just a handful of laps from the chequered flag, and just as he was beginning to ramp his strategy for the closing stages. Rookie team-mate Kevin Magnussen salvaged tenth place, but at a cost to his health as excessive heat in the cockpit made life uncomfortable for the Dane.
As a result of picking up just a solitary point in Marina Bay, McLaren slipped back behind Force India in the teams' championship, but the belief within the walls of its Woking HQ is upbeat.
“I think the feeling within the team is a mix of great excitement and measured concern,” engineering director Matt Morris claimed, “We're making some bold new moves, which is what was required, but such things always take time, and we're still a long way behind where we need to be as McLaren.”
Despite his career having taken to the WRC as well as other F1 teams such as Williams, Morris has a clear view of what McLaren should represent, and is confident that the operation can regain that status after a couple of seasons in the midfield wilderness.
“In my mind, McLaren has always stood for excellence and domination,” he revealed, “We aren't quite achieving those ambitions at the moment, but we're working to get there.
“Clearly, the past two seasons have been tough - we'll admit that we've under-performed. There's no single reason for that, but I think we needed to remind ourselves that we're a racing team and not an engineering consultancy. We need to be quick and agile, and maybe take a few risks here and there. F1 is like warfare – you need to be on the attack all the time. If you sit back and relax, you'll lose.
“We need to continue to catch up with our competitors as quickly as possible. We also need to ensure that our new 2015 power unit integrates into the MP4-30 as seamlessly as possible, and that we continue to develop our already strong relationship with our new engine partner.”
The return of Honda is one of the most eagerly-anticipated storylines for 2015, and McLaren has been hard at work reshaping itself to be ready for the reunion of two of the most successful exponents in F1 history.
“We've been working hard over the past year to bring in some new people, allow a few people to move on, and change the way the engineering team is structured,” Morris confirmed, “With the valuable input of [COO and acting CEO] Jonathan [Neale], and [racing director] and Eric [Boullier], that plan is now almost complete. However, we do still have a few more people in the incoming and outgoing pipelines, which is something that always happens when you want to stay fresh.
“We now need to give our new people and structures some time to develop and mature, but we're already seeing some of those changes coming to fruition as we continue to add performance to the car. Our technical plan for the rest of the season is to continue developing the MP4-29 and we have updates planned, potentially right up to the last race.
“We're definitely moving forwards and that's the most important thing.”
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