Going into their 48th consecutive season of the Formula One World Championship McLaren had a record of winning 8 Constructors Championships and 30 top 3 finishes in the World Constructors Championship, so coming off a 2012 season which included 7 race victories and a 3rd place finish in final championship standings behind the old foe Ferrari and young upstarts Red Bull it would have been a brave man who would bet that McLaren would not at least finish in the top 3 for the 31st time and at least score a race win or two.
Jenson Button, above, who had won the opening and closing races of the 2012 season was joined by young Mexican charger Sergio Perez, below, after Lewis Hamilton left the team, which had nutured him from a talented teenager to the 2008 World Drivers championship, for bigger bucks and the fresh waters at Mercedes Benz.
The all new Mercedes powered MP4-28 was the work of a team led by Paddy Lowe incorporating new suspension with rear wishbones designed to manage rear tyre wear by adding camber to the rear wheels as the vehicles speed increased. The car flattered in pre season testing due to an incorrectly fitted suspension part that saw the cars ride height lowered to a level that proved unsustainable by the time the championship season started.
As a consequence for the first half of the season McLaren were struggling to maintain 5th place in the championship ahead of the similarly powered Force Indias, a team to which McLaren were supplying gearboxes. The low point of the season came when both cars failed to score any points at either the Canadian or British Grand Prix, breaking a run of 64 races in which McLaren had at least one car in the points going back to the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Test driver Gary Paffett is seen in the MP4-28 above during the Young Driver Test at Silverstone.
By the season’s end the team’s best result was a single 4th place scored by Jenson Button in the final race of the season in Brazil, Sergio Perez manged a season high 5th place in India and for the first time since 1980 no McLaren driver had finished a season with at least one podium finish.
Unsurprisingly before the season had ended changes in the team were being announced, towards the end of the season it was announced the McLaren will use Honda motors form 2015 reforming an alliance that brought McLaren four World Constructors Championships and one drivers championship for Alain Prost and three for Ayrton Senna.
Technical director Paddy Lowe had already moved to Mercedes Benz where he has replaced Ross Brawn and was himself replaced at McLaren by Tim Goss, Sergio Perez was more or less fired and announced he would be joining Force India with McLaren’s test driver Kevin Magnussen replacing Sergio at McLaren.
Further changes are anticipated in the wake of the announcement that Ron Dennis has returned to the role of CEO at McLaren, having left that post in 2012 to focus on the role of Chairman. On his reappointment Ron was quoted as saying “There will be changes” and these are expected to include a newly defined role for incumbent CEO and Team Principle Martin Whitmarsh. Since Ron’s reappointment former Lotus F1 Team Principle Eric Boullier has been recruited to the role of Race Director.
Thanks for joining me on this “There will be changes” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me for a look at an Edwardian vehicle designed as a law enforcement vehicle that turned out to be a race winner. Don’t forget to come back now !