For McLaren, it seems like an eternity since their glory years ended in 2014.
After an absolutely cataclysmic engine deal with Honda backfired, leaving veteran and former world champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button at the back of the grid in 2015, the team has steadily been returning to a form over the last six years.
In 2018, the team moved to Renault power units and would go onto sign drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. Since the move to Renault, McLaren has scored three podiums. Sainz’s podium at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix marked the team’s first since Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button logged a double podium in 2014.
With the 2021 season on the horizon, McLaren looks on the way to recovering their form. A lot of things are set to change for the team, starting with the driver and car. One of the major things announced was two team partnerships, one with Gulf Oil and another with the National Bank of Bahrain. Gulf will provide a very iconic sponsor, while the team received a 150-million pound loan from the National Bank to help with financing.
Another change will be the addition of the honey badger, Daniel Ricciardo to the team’s driver lineup.
The 31-year-old Australian will be jumping from Renault to drive alongside Norris for the upcoming season. Ricciardo has made 180 starts for four teams (HRT, Renault, Toro Rosso and Red Bull), notching seven wins, with the most recent coming in the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix. Ricciardo also has a combined 29 podiums, three poles and 14 fastest laps.
The move came as a bit of a surprise as Ricciardo had not given any indications of wanting to leave Renault prior to the announcement. Ricciardo’s partner Norris, while only in his second season, has already shown immense promise.
Norris logged his first podium at the season opener in Austria. Since then, he has been consistently running in the high mid-pack. The young Brit is showing to be one of F1’s brightest rising stars, with the help of a veteran like Ricciardo, it can only help to improve him even further in 2021.
Now, onto the biggest change at McLaren. This past spring, McLaren announced it would reunite with former engine supplier Mercedes for the 2021 season. This move comes as a much-needed jet of happiness to the McLaren faithful as under the previous partnership, the team scored three world titles, a constructors title as well as 78 race victories coming with eight different drivers.
While it is still unknown if the partnership will succeed as it did from 1995-2014, with those stats presented above, it’s hard to bet against it.
Mercedes also provides the engines for both its factory team as well as Williams. It makes it risky because while the factory team is first in the standings, Williams is dead last. Maybe McLaren is able to compete, to perhaps they become a Mercedes mid-fielder team. The 2020 season has been one of “anything can happen” type storylines, and the 2021 season could be no different. New cars mean new everything, and maybe McLaren can take advantage of the rules package and compete at a much higher level.
Two talented drivers, plus a proven powerful engine supplier, plus constant funding puts McLaren in a place where it hasn’t been in a while — a place of financial stability. While it might seem small, stability for a team can help them focus on improving the car rather than focusing on how they are gonna pay all the guys at the shop.
A new era is starting at McLaren, one that I feel is going to truly take the team back to its glory days … in a few years time.