Former Formula 1 and CART champion Nigel Mansell has urged Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to keep faith in McLaren-Honda while the team goes through the “growing pains” of a new partnership.
Button and Alonso have both won world titles in the past, but neither have been able to even dream of a similar success in 2015 as the new Honda power unit has limited the team to just 17 points in total from the first 14 races.
Both drivers are set to remain with the team for 2016, but speculation about their future has been rife as a result of Honda’s struggles which even prompted Alonso to publicly vent his frustration over the radio in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Mansell urged both drivers to keep faith in the McLaren-Honda project, believing that it could yet make big strides forward ahead of the 2016 season.
“Jenson deserves an opportunity to see if they can compete and win next year,” Mansell said. “I think this winter Honda can make a breakthrough and McLaren will be working so, so hard.
“They are a fantastic team. They’ve won so much in the past and, to use [McLaren Group CEO] Ron Dennis’s words, they will win again in the future. I have no doubt about that.”
Mansell himself walked away from McLaren after just two races in 1995, its first season with Mercedes engines. After winning the CART title in 1993, Mansell enjoyed four races with Williams in F1 the following year before joining McLaren for the 1995 season.
After missing the first two races of the year due to the car being too narrow, Mansell took part in the San Marino and Spanish Grands Prix before walking away from McLaren due to the car’s lack of pace.
The Briton hinted at his own regrets when discussing the matter, and wished McLaren the very best in its bid to get back to the front of the field.
“Between Alonso and Jenson they will be a formidable team, given the car and the engine to do the job,” Mansell said. “When you go through the growing pains, and I’ve been there a few times myself, stay the course because they could have the best team and best engine.
“They’ll have some really serious regrets if Honda get it right after they’ve gone somewhere else. Hopefully within 12 months they’ll be singing the praises of the team and Honda. I sincerely hope they’ll be winning races in a year’s time.”