Scratch that. Reboot. Try again. The 2013 Formula One season is not going to register even so much as a blip in McLaren’s long, illustrious history.
That is, of course, unless it’s the start of a Williams-esque downturn in form.
But, focusing on the positives, attentions have—for a while now in Woking—diverted away from a tumultuous campaign with a difficult car and settled onto a new horizon.
With 2014 heralding in a new era in Formula 1, at the forefront of which will be the new regulations, it’s entirely understandable that McLaren—failing to get to grips with their revolutionary design for this year’s car—wanted to focus their efforts on the next few years, rather than save face over the next six months.
Should they, though, make it a total fresh start? Bump Jenson Button and Sergio Perez and breathe new life into the team, or keep the pairing the same and see what 2014 brings?
Button: A Known Quantity
First thing's first: Button is contracted with the team until the end of next year.
He's made no secret of his desire to see out his career at McLaren, as Autosport reported two years ago, so on a personal level has no reason to do so a year early.
Yes, the 2009 world champion has had a muted campaign, especially given he would have been a favourite over the winter before preseason testing started.
He also had a less-than-spectacular 2012 season but won brilliantly in Australia and Belgium, and in 2011, as Sebastian Vettel romped to the title, proved more than a match for Lewis Hamilton.
Furthermore, 2014-spec F1 will present an imposing challenge for every team, big and small.
Managing expectations is one thing but going racing with a grid of unknown quantities as the new-look cars bed themselves in throws up all manner of uncertainties and shocks; just look at 2009 when Toyota and Brawn became the teams to beat at the expense of McLaren and Ferrari.
Teams will look for a guiding light, and a driver who is equally as motivating, clever and driven outside of the cockpit as he is in it.
Some will say Button is past his peak; that his enthusiasm has waned, particularly in the wake of this campaign.
That is to do the man a great disservice.
With such a shift in car design and power, an experienced hand will be crucial, and the best drivers will get to grips with the new regulations quicker.
The bottom line is Button is a proven driver at the top level. He may not be the fastest over a lap, and is prone to go missing on "off days", but the quality remains.
Perez: Potential Is There
Is Sergio Perez an enigma? Probably not. But he is very talented, if a bit frustrating sometimes.
After a tough start to life at McLaren, the Mexican broadened his shoulders (at Bahrain and Monaco in particular) and has out-qualified his teammate in four Grands Prix out of 10.
That’s hardly the most substantial sample set you can work with, but it’s all the data we have available.
And it’s not a paltry return for a young man in his first season with a "proper" team, no disrespect to Sauber intended in the slightest, even if he’s only beaten Button in three races this year.
A smattering of points finishes, adding up to 18 and 12th in the standings, doesn’t point to a season of great success.
But, just 21 points and three places ahead of him in the standings, is a world champion teammate.
Button’s had the standout results (Perez’s sixth in Bahrain aside) but that’s to be expected when they are fighting a tough car.
The Mexican’s had his bedding in period; the second half of the campaign will be a better barometer compared to Button.
Don’t expect miracles, due to attention at Woking now turning to 2014. No development on a slow car, while their rivals push on, is unlikely to herald any victories in the near future.
But do expect Perez to show why there’s more to him than a wealthy homeland backer, and why McLaren would be mistaken in thinking dumping him for another driver next season would be a mistake.
A Dynamic Duo?
As a pairing, these two complement each other quite well—even if it might not seem so at first glance.
Button’s experienced enough in playing the game to know Perez will outpace him and beat him from time-to-time. But he also knows the Mexican’s temperament is an asset as much as it is a frustration.
The Brit is very astute. So if he’s complaining down the team radio to get Checo to calm himself down, it’s to do just that.
There’s no ill-feeling and no contempt; it’s about reading the situation and managing a Grand Prix.
So don’t immediately think this partnership doesn’t work. While Button can go missing at times, when the chips are down Perez often comes out fighting.
There will be pressure in 2014, particularly after this year. But it’s not something Button is incapable of dealing with.
If a pressure-cooker situation suits anyone, it’s the cool-as-ice Brit and his Mexican teammate, who is sensation when fired up.
Ditching the pair would be a mistake.
As teammates and as individuals, the Button/Perez partnership can provide something of great value to McLaren.
All it needs to do is deliver a car that lets them show it.
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