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McLaren's paradox moment

Fernando Alonso suffered an oil leak in a McLaren-Renault. (GEPA pictures/Christian Walgram).
Roar Guru
8th March, 2018
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Like a pendulum, the jury on McLaren’s post-Honda era is fluctuating daily, with sentiment leaning, somewhat inexplicably, towards the latter since pre-season testing commenced last week.

The Woking outfit’s fortunes at Barcelona have represented an immediate improvement on twelve months earlier, though underlying pace and reliability issues – coupled with Honda’s belated inroads in its new collaboration with Toro Rosso – have left many pondering whether McLaren were naïve to ditch the Japanese manufacturer.

Not to mention, that as it stands, McLaren has completed the least mileage across six days of testing. Sound familiar?

Externally, management continues to assure everybody that it is content with the switch to customer Renault power, yet there must be skepticism within the camp that its lack of faith in Honda is being punished.

McLaren racing director, Eric Boullier, offered the corporate speak, saying; “it’s a new partnership with Renault and new packaging as well. This is testing, give us time”, despite earlier forecasts that it would be in a position to contend with the French manufacturer’s fellow customer this season.

Red Bull’s promising speed in recent days – topping the timesheets on the second day of the final test, offers cause for concern that the MCL33 is simply compromised aerodynamically, and now its shortcomings are being exposed without any excuse.

Just as a corner appeared to have been turned, Fernando Alonso suffered an oil leak on Wednesday morning, effectively curtailing his day at the wheel as he didn’t venture back out until the closing minutes in the evening.

The two-time World Champion reasoned that “there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the car”, arguing that. despite the setbacks, “that is making us in a strong position for Australia because we are strengthening all the small things.”

Optimism shadowed in uncertainty if ever there were an instance.

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Meanwhile, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley managed 119 laps – more than double the Spaniard’s account, further proof that Honda finally has the reliability shtick sorted.

Its team principal, Franz Tost, bullishly asserted “I don’t care about McLaren, I am convinced that by the end we will have a more competitive package than them.”

Much has been made of Honda’s cordial relations with its new partner, and almost instantly, perpetuating the notion that it should have adopted this lower-key approach, which would have offered greater anonymity, upon its re-entry to the sport in 2015.

McLaren were condemned whichever direction it took following three years in purgatory, there was no indication of light at the end of the tunnel, thus it’d be foolish to judge them on the basis of coming weeks. Equally, they must be brave enough to admit they got it wrong should Honda pull an about-face.

It remains amusing to consider that so many conclusions have already been drawn when the McLaren-Renault combination has yet to race in an official capacity. Therefore, right of reply must be afforded, while remembering that the former is operating from a small base with dented confidence.

Formula One is wonderfully full of ironies and surprises, and the beauty of pre-season hypothesising is that not always, though sometimes, we can be proven wrong in a pleasant way.

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