Ditching Honda a new chapter for post-Dennis McLaren

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By , Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    McLaren’s impending divorce from Honda will always carry the ‘what if?’ handle, yet the consequences of dissolving the relationship are minuscule in contrast to the urgency for results of any significance to be achieved.

    A works partnership has long been considered sacred, the cornerstone of a legitimate championship bid – not to mention the considerable capital injection. As such, McLaren’s imminent repudiation of a $100 million annual contribution from Honda speaks to the terminal nature of the marriage.

    Not since 1994 has the Woking outfit been confronted with customer status, thus its willingness to place faith in Renault – the French manufacturer relatively listless in the hybrid era – is indicative of how grave the situation has become.

    They’d be under no illusions that titles are off the table in the foreseeable future, though it doesn’t mean that relative success can’t be enjoyed. At any rate, it will represent a significant upgrade on its return across the balance of its collaboration with the Japanese manufacturer.

    Working towards 2021, when the new Concorde agreement and next regulation overhaul are set to take effect, McLaren should take the intervening seasons as they come. If nothing else, they must utilise the window as an opportunity to restore its reputation to the degree of becoming commercially lucrative once more rather than chasing an immediate fix.

    Whether another ‘factory’ works association is feasible in the long term – that is, if the marque isn’t scarred by its experience with Honda – is a decision for another day. Contemplating an in-house effort is also something which can’t be rushed, and this dictates the parameters within which McLaren must be content to operate over the following three campaigns.

    (Image: GEPA Pictures/Red Bull Content Pool).

    If you asked Red Bull Racing how they feel about its past four seasons, they would claim supreme disappointment and proceed to apportion blame at the feet of Renault, which has been forced to endure the Milton Keynes squad’s wrath since 2014.

    Six victories is a stark parallel to the lofty days of 2010 to 2013, yet anything close to this figure would be a gratefully received by McLaren through to 2020 when even a podium hasn’t been achieved since the opening race of the 2014 season. Now that’s something to complain about. It’s all relative.

    While nothing to aspire to, contending with the fairweather energy drinks company for best-of-the-rest honours behind Mercedes and Ferrari represents something capable of pitching to potential sponsors in gathering a formidable war chest to launch an all-out assault from 2021.

    Let us consider that McLaren hasn’t enjoyed a truly dominant season since 1998, and it’s apparent that waiting a little longer in the pursuit of futureproofing its fortunes, having consistently under achieved since the turn of the 21st century, is a worthy compromise.

    Shedding Honda also allows the team to turn a definitive leaf on the Ron Dennis chapter. His infatuation with works status and attempt at rekindling past glory was a costly misstep which shouldn’t be borne by his successors, tireless employees and fans any longer.

    There’s little prospect the following three seasons could possibly be as long and painful as the past three, so long as McLaren realises where it went wrong last time and are prepared to be a little patient, with the promise of something nearing pride to hang its hat on in the meantime.