It’s here. It is upon us. The long and arduous winter where the long dark nights are filled with designers final touches, wind-tunnels maxing out into overdrive and drivers preparing and training in exotic climes are finally at an end. The 2015 season is almost here.
The speculation over teams (re)joining the grid, financial security and chassis ability will all be resolved, or at least become somewhat clearer on Sunday evening. The yardstick will have been well and truly thrown and the gauntlet set down by some to actively aim at beating over the course of the long season, which finalises in November.
The renewed McLaren Honda partnership has had a slow and solemn berth over the three winter test sessions in the south of Spain. There a several issues, more relating to the electrics and overall packaging of the power unit within the MP4-30. The chassis itself is aerodynamically sound, the drivers have expressed confidence in the cars ability to steer and corner, always a major plus. Australia will be the first time the McLaren will be run in anger, and don’t expect that to be until the Qualifying session on Saturday. The weather is good and the circuit has always been favourable to the Woking squad. The street-like track allows for cars with excellent traction and high-speed cornering ability to excel.
We should expect to see a slow start for the McLaren Honda. The team will be keen to try and get as many installation laps in as possible, in order to ascertain whether particular parts of the chassis and the power unit are working together. We may even see a lack of running toward the end of the first free practice session on Friday, to make sure that the Honda power unit is not compromised and therefore requiring a change in between sessions, something which will have a negligible effect on the teams programme.
The weather is expected to remain sunny and warm for the entire weekend, so we can rule out a classic Jenson Button style inter-changeable conditions victory here. The overall aim for the squad is to run the weekend as reliably as possible, and score as many points in a race which normally has a high attrition rate. The Albert Park race should not be too large a problem for Alonso not to be a part of, although his presence will be missed, especially with new recruit Andrea Stella waiting for his prompt arrival in Sepang
The word McLaren Honda will want to hear after this weekend: ‘Dark-horse’.
Jenson Button finished McLaren’s testing schedule at Jerez on Wednesday. The world champion managed a total of 35 laps and a lap time of 1m27.660 before an issue set in. A fuel required changing so late in the afternoon that there was not enough time to complete the repair and exit the pits, so the team completed the test early.
There have been promising signs of improvement from the MP4-30. In the afternoon, the team even decided to focus on aerodynamic development. Meanwhile Alonso left the south of Spain to go for some winter mountain training, in order to extend his fitness.
The next test gets under way in Barcelona on the 19th of February.
Fernando Alonso completed 32 laps on his last day of testing at the Jerez circuit. The test is being used by McLaren and Honda as a time to get some serious laps in, in order to bed in the new partnership ahead of the 2015 F1 season. Alonso left the garage immediately in the morning and managed to even complete a 10 lap run whilst the track was still damp, after overnight rain, as a result his quickest time of a 1m35.553 was unrepresentative.
Jenson Button was in the garage watching the teams progress. Unfortunately the session came to an end early in the afternoon after a water leak was discovered. The issue required the chassis to be taken apart and the power unit removed, bringing to an end a positive day. Jenson Button takes over the car for the last day of the test tomorrow.
Jenson Button had his first run out in the McLaren Honda at Jerez today. The MP4-30 only managed a total of six laps, due to some ancillary issues and rain late in the day halting progress. The Briton completed six laps in the car, with an unrepresentative time of 1m54.655.
Fernando Alonso will take control of the car for tomorrows running, the third day of the four day test.
The MP4-30 has completed it first laps as the new partnership between McLaren and Honda began at the Jerez circuit. Fernando Alonso managed six installation laps of the track as the team and engine manufacturer begin to work with each other. Alonso ended the day with an unrepresentative time of 1m40.738.
There were some electronic issues throughout the afternoon, which meant the car had to remain in the garage, however, there are high hopes for a successful day tomorrow when Jenson Button takes over the steering wheel.
After the running, McLaren boss Ron Dennis also alluded to a change of livery for the MP4-30 in the coming weeks.
McLaren released images of the 2015 Formula One car, the first year of a new partnership with the Honda engine company. The photos of the new car show a similar colour scheme to ones previously used by the Woking squad, something the team says “firmly contextualises McLaren’s brand in the 21st century.”
McLaren say the MP4-30 chassis is a thoroughly refined evolution of last year’s McLaren, it is the only chassis on the grid to be fitted with Honda’s RA615H Hybrid power unit. Honda have developed a 145kg 1.6 litre V6 power unit for the forthcoming season. The rumours are that the Japanese engine manufacturer have done supremely well in being able to produce sufficient power and efficiency as well as managing to package the power unit into the tighter McLaren chassis, which has been produced by Chief Engineer Peter Prodromou, hired from Red Bull in September 2014, Matt Morris the Director of Engineering and the Technical Director Tim Goss.
Jenson Button said: “The off-season has really brought about a sense of renewal coming into 2015 – continuing my relationship with McLaren, getting married, and now embarking on such an exciting chapter: McLaren’s new partnership with Honda. I’ve trained hard over the winter, and I’m absolutely itching to get going in the new McLarenHonda MP4-30. “It’s been interesting to spend time in the factory during the past few weeks: you can really sense a feeling of reignited optimism and positivity around the building. I’ve never seen such motivation amongst the guys – we’re all massively keen to get going in Jerez and to work hard on developing our new car. But we’re under no illusion that it will be easy – there’s a huge challenge ahead of us to try to pull back the gap to our rivals, but we’re certainly up for it. We ended last season with great momentum and clear progress, and I’m determined to carry that forward into 2015. “I’m also looking forward to working with my new team-mate, Fernando [Alonso], and I’m confident that our joint experience on track will pay dividends in our development race to get our team back to the front of the grid. I’m hugely motivated to make more history in this new McLaren-Honda era.”
Fernando Alonso said: “Although the winter period is a time for rest and relaxation from racing, my motivation could not be stronger for the new season. I’ve done a lot of training during the winter break, to reach my peak physical fitness, and I’ve been working hard in preparation for this new era of McLaren-Honda. I’ve never felt better, or more ready for a new season. “Of course, we’re prepared for a steep learning curve, but it’s clear to see that inside McLaren-Honda there’s total commitment, and a real change in feeling, as we start this new partnership. We’re all focused on the challenge ahead, and I feel extremely honoured to be part of a relationship that has shared so much history together. My aim is to help write a new chapter in the history of McLaren-Honda. We understand the effort and teamwork required to take McLaren-Honda back to where it should be, at the front of the grid, and all our energy as a team is focused on that goal. “Our first target will be to learn the maximum from the car at the pre-season tests, understand the package, and extract as much performance as possible. That won’t be easy or trouble-free, but we’re ready for that. Why? Because our key focus will be on development. Historically, McLaren has already been characterised by its ability to bring updates to the car quickly, and develop a strong package. It’s going to be a real privilege to be the first person to drive the new McLaren-Honda MP4-30 at Jerez, and I can’t wait to begin what I’m certain will be a very exciting new chapter in my career. I’m as motivated now as I was when I was given my first opportunity at the wheel of an F1 car. “Last but not least, I’m excited to be sitting alongside Jenson [Button], a great team-mate and a very experienced competitor. Together we’ll push the team forward, to learn, to progress, and eventually to achieve the best possible results together. We are ready for the new era.”
Yasuhisa Arai, the Senior Managing Officer of Honda R&D said: “Today is obviously a very exciting day for me and for Honda. It’s not every day that you’re involved in a launch of a new Formula 1 car and a start-up of a new partnership. “As you can see with the new MP4-30, we’ve dedicated ourselves as one team with McLaren to creating a new car that compromises on nothing – either power or aerodynamics. “Yet, in the midst of the excitement, both myself and our engineers are 100 per cent focused in both Sakura and Milton Keynes to prepare for Jerez and beyond. We’re confident that the technology is there, and I’m looking forward to see how it will perform. “We’re about to commence a long season, with numerous challenges, but Honda is determined to face them head-on. After all, we’re here to drive Formula 1’s technology forward and give our fans a thrilling ride.”