It’s been a dire five years for one of Formula One’s most decorated outfits, but six races into 2019, McLaren finally appear to be on the way up.
Sitting an impressive fourth in the constructors’ championship heading into the Canadian Grand Prix, the impact of a seismic, transitional shift within McLaren Racing is at last being felt.
Following a tumultuous relationship with engine maker Honda and the divorce that occurred in 2017, McLaren went into a customer deal for power-units with Renault – as well as starting anew with personnel within management.
The highly rated Eric Boullier made his departure from his post as racing director, having been brought into the team in 2014 by former supremo Ron Dennis.
Also having been shuffled out was long-time chief designer Tim Goss, having failed to deliver a competitive chassis.
McLaren’s successor to Dennis – the eccentric Zak Brown – has, in turn, brought in the likes of former IndyCar champion Gil de Ferran in a managerial capacity.
They have also restructured the technical department by luring the revered James Key away from Toro Rosso and promoted Andrea Stella from within.
The prized signing, though, was the signature of former successful Porsche LMP1 chief in Andreas Seidl as team principal, who commenced his tenure at Woking at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
“From a leadership standpoint I’m done,” Brown was quoted in stating on Motorsport.com, when discussing the new management team at McLaren.
“I landed everyone I wanted to land and I don’t feel like I got second-best in any of them. What Andreas ends up doing with the racing team is up to Andreas and he has my full support.”
All the talk and structural change is good and well, however the focus now shifts to the results – and so far in 2019, the results have been positive.
Reliability issues have been non-existent on the papaya orange MCL34. Even though they may be behind on last year’s total after six races, McLaren have not had as many non-finishes as 2018.
The team’s all-new driver lineup was scrutinised in the pre-season, especially around the lack of experience and leadership between Carlos Sainz and rookie Lando Norris.
The pair have both delivered so far though, with a hattrick of points-scoring results for Sainz at the last three races.
Norris, meanwhile, has produced excitement from the moment he made the top-ten in qualifying for the opening race in Australia, to his composed and mature battle with the nearly twice-his-age Kimi Räikkönen in Bahrain – yielding a season-best result of sixth.
While they are still a way-off getting back to the pointy end of the grid, McLaren have demonstrated that they are on the right path given they’ve reached their nadir in recent seasons – for a former championship-winning dynasty, not returning to the top would be inexcusable.
Sitting ahead on points over the actual works Renault team must be of great satisfaction – though the challenge is to now sustain that level, as outfits such as the French manufacturer continue to develop their car.
Brown also stated that he is “starting to see” Mercedes-like qualities within McLaren. This line isn’t to be construed as delusion, but having those key people – like the Silver Arrows – in place to build the foundations of what could be an outfit of world beaters.