Over half a decade removed from Formula 1 title contention, McLaren finally took a step towards regaining its former place of prominence in 2019, and it was no small step, either.
Having ended their ill-fated partnership with Honda at the close of the 2018 season, the Woking outfit entered the year with a Renault engine supply and a swath of question marks, but ended it the undisputed “best of the rest” with a team that was firing on all cylinders.
Courtesy of the chassis supplied by Pat Fry and Peter Podromou, and the all-new driver partnership of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, they managed to outscore the works Renault by 54 points, being regular top-ten finishers and even earning a podium at the penultimate race in Brazil – the team’s first since the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. Scoring only 62 points a year ago, they finished with just over double that tally, on 145.
Between those accomplishments and their agreement to return to a Mercedes engine supply in 2021, McLaren managed to give their supporters hope again, and that’s why they are our surprise of the year for 2019.
Credit to Zak Brown and the leadership at McLaren, particularly new F1 team boss Andreas Seidl for a renaissance at Woking which resulted in the once mightiest team finally showing some promise after years in the doldrums.
Seidl identified ‘stone in the shoe’ within the team – Fernando Alonso – and marginalised him and allowed his two young drivers to flourish in their first year with the team.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were both impressive, the Spaniard relishing his role in the team alongside a very promising youngster who is as precocious as likeable – incredibly fast too.
The pair transitioned the outfit from Team-Alonso back to McLaren where the team took center stage over personalities and the results prove it was a good call.
As a long-time McLaren fan, I cannot say I am overwhelmed by the showing, we expect no less but at least it is a step in the right direction but, in truth, they will never be the power they once were unless they align themselves with a manufacturer.
But at least this year they were Best of the Rest, and that’s a good start to their long-overdue recovery. (Paul Velasco)