Yesterday’s non-announcement of the 2015 McLaren driver lineup only served to frustrate, rather than answer the single biggest remaining question of the current Formula One offseason.
While it remains a difficult decision to pick between Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen alongside the yet-to-be-officially-confirmed Fernando Alonso, the fact remains both 2014 drivers have been done a disservice by the team’s handling of the decision.
Either has upside for the future. Button, all class ’til the end and a prior World Champion, would no doubt be an asset from Japanese culture (prior Honda experience), car development and outright points-scoring standpoints.
Magnussen, the young Dane, was heralded as F1’s “can’t miss” prospect a year ago, yet after an up-and-down 2014 failed to fully live up to his potential. Still, only 22, Magnussen’s likely a cheaper and more viable long-term prospect who should be able to improve in year two.
Were Magnussen to be dropped, he’d be the second young driver in as many seasons dropped after a single season with McLaren. Were it Button, he would not have had a proper sendoff season – or even a proper sendoff Grand Prix if a decision was made known prior to Abu Dhabi.
So they’re both cast into a no-win situation from here.
McLaren finds itself a bit on the back foot heading into the offseason. It’s endured two test days with an interim chassis, and only completed a handful of installation laps. It’s failed to confirm its lineup in the time frame it planned to do.
Most of all, it finds itself now up against the backlash of public opinion in the face of how it’s handled the driver announcement, or lack thereof.
It will be last among the nine confirmed teams (Caterham is still a questionable squad for 2015) to answer the call for who will be in its cars, and traditionally, that doesn’t bode well for any team the following season.
You hope things can get better for McLaren, but it’s difficult to imagine them getting significantly better overnight.
Here was the Button/Magnussen Twitter conversation on Thursday. Note a pairing that doesn’t seem like it wants to get broken up, but it feels inevitable…