McLaren's New Car Launch and 5 Things It Must Address
When McLaren unveil their challenger for the 2014 season, the MP4-29, in an online launch a week on Friday, they will hope to learn from some of the mistakes that followed last year's launch.
The 2013 season was an unmitigated disaster after the team bucked trend with a complete redesign of their car rather than play safe with an evolution of the MP4-27. The result was that the team endured their worst season for 30 years with not a single podium finish to their credit.
With the 2014 engine regulations set to shake up the sport more than ever before, McLaren has reason to believe that next season can’t possibly be as bad, especially as the team decided to focus its efforts on next year’s car earlier than much of the competition.
Here are five things the Woking team can look to do in order to kick-start the climb back to the top of the grid.
Play Down Expectations
A glamorous 2013 launch at the team’s fantastic technology centre in Woking followed an equally upbeat launch in Berlin in 2012.
Last year’s launch saw an array of cars from the team’s glorious and successful past drive around the lake and into the atrium before parking in front of the assembled media in tribute to the team's impending 50th anniversary.
Given what was to happen over the coming months, it was a good job the MP4-28 didn't have to follow suit around the lake for fear of not making the distance!
Joking aside, the team appears determined to play down expectations rather than risk being left with egg on their face and have decided to play it safe with an online launch of their new car.
Big Up the New Boy
Jenson Button’s new teammate for the 2014 season, Kevin Magnussen, is set to be unveiled during the online launch and the team must fill the youngster with confidence whilst being careful to stop short of saying he’s a world beater.
He clearly has the talent, having won the Formula Renault 3.5 championship and he has been a part of the McLaren driver development programme, so he knows his way around the team.
McLaren have been saying all the right things about Magnussen in the media and should continue to back him through thick and thin.
Listen to Gary Paffett
McLaren is one of the few teams blessed with state-of-the-art facilities and test driver Gary Paffett has been key to developing the car over the winter in the team’s simulator.
Paffett was on stage at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham over the weekend and took time out to talk about how both Button and Magnussen will have to adapt to change their driving styles over the winter, as quoted on Sky Sports.
They are definitely going to have to change it. I have worked in the simulator a long time on these cars and when I swapped back and forth from the (MP4-) 29 to the 28, you do have to change your style, the way you drive the car. Working with Jenson (Button) as well, the first time he came to drive the car I spent a bit of time talking him through it and you could physically see him having to think about how to drive the car.
So the drivers are going to have to think about it and try and think how to get the best out of it because it is not just how the car handles and the balance of the car, but the way to use the tyres and use the fuel and all of the devices we have on the car now as well with regards to the KERS and everything else, it takes a lot more thought from the driver this year.
Get the Best out of Button
Although the design of the MP4-29 will be the real key to McLaren’s success, much will also depend on the performances of Jenson Button.
The 2009 world champion is one of the very best drivers on the grid and McLaren are lucky to have him. His smooth driving style has often been compared to the great Alain Prost and he is able to nurse a car’s tyres like no other on the grid with the possible exception of Fernando Alonso.
But Button must be in a very low place right now following the tragic news of his father’s passing. John Button was Jenson’s inspiration and the reason why he became such a great racing driver.
It will be crucial to McLaren’s success in 2014 as to how the team can lift Button over the coming months.
One thing is for now sure, he will now be racing for his inspirational father more than ever before and his next victory, if it happens, will be an emotional one and one the whole F1 community will be cheering him on to achieve.
Continue to Believe
The one big thing on McLaren’s side in 2014 is that the new aerodynamic and engine regulations mean that it’s a step into the unknown for every team on the grid.
What may be on McLaren’s side is that they decided to start their development of their 2014 challenger earlier than some of their rivals and they have the resources at their disposal at their magnificent Woking facility to get one up on the opposition.
Add to this the fact that rival Lotus have ruled themselves out of the first official test session of the year at Jerez at the end of January and McLaren already have an early advantage.
And with Honda set to rekindle memories of former glories when it renews their partnership in 2015, surely a return to the good times is just around the corner.