McLaren goes back to the future, but can it return to its heyday?


So there we have it. McLaren-Honda is well and truly back in business with today’s launch of the MP4-30. Sure, it doesn’t feature the red and white chevrons that made the old cars in the late eighties and early nineties so recognizable, but there is no denying that the new car is very easy on the eyes.

The deal with Honda may have been announced back in 2013, but today is the true starting point for the ‘new’ McLaren. The team has undergone a quiet revolution over the past year or so, and this is the final piece of the jigsaw.

Ever since the sackings of Sergio Perez and Martin Whitmarsh after the disastrous 2013 campaign, the team has made quite clear that it will stop at nothing to get back to the top of F1 – even if it means bringing back a one-time enemy as a driver and cutting ties with your engine supplier of 19 years.

Ahead of today’s launch, McLaren released quite a funny video featuring Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button called “Back to the Racetrack” (a parody of Back to the Future) that saw them turn a McLaren supercar into a flux capacitor. It won’t be in the running for the Oscars, but it was still a nice and funny video that set the tone for the year.

Because in 2015, McLaren is going back to the future. Back to some of its old roots.

The rekindled partnership with Honda is enough to make those who can remember the late eighties a little misty-eyed. The Japanese manufacturer first worked with McLaren in 1988, playing its part in the most dominant performance by any one team in a Formula 1 season. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won 15 of the 16 races, claiming a clean sweep of pole positions in the MP4/4 which is widely regarded as one of the greatest cars of all time. It was devastatingly good.

It didn’t stop there though. The marriage between McLaren and Honda may only have lasted until the end of 1992, but it was enough time to secure eight world titles in total (four drivers’, four constructors’). All three of Senna’s championship came at the wheel of a McLaren-Honda, and if you ask fans to pick out a favorite era in the history of the sport, many will talk about the battles between the two white and red cars.

The emotional ties that McLaren and Honda shared undoubtedly played a big part in them getting back together for 2015, but it is wrong to think that this was the only reason behind it. Quite clearly, McLaren and Mercedes had run its course. Between 1995 and 2009, Mercedes did not have a works team, making McLaren the total priority. When Mercedes then bought Brawn GP and put its own Silver Arrows out there, McLaren was an afterthought. Few teams win world titles without being the ‘works’ team.

By reuniting with Honda, McLaren is the priority once again. After the last failed attempt, it’s highly unlikely that Honda would even consider bringing a works team back into F1 any time soon, meaning that McLaren is, for the foreseeable future, top dog in Japan.

It is still a very big risk though. Honda is turning up late to the party, with the rest of the engine suppliers already having a year of running under their belts. By winning the right to develop the engine in-season, Honda has clawed back some of the deficit, but a reliable F1 insider informed me in Austin that it was behind schedule with the engine and it was too heavy. However, it was producing the same output as the dominant Mercedes power unit. In the past three months, this could have changed, but the early signs of proof should come in Jerez next week.

It’s an old romance that has been rekindled, but not the only one. Fernando Alonso’s return is something that few would have predicted five years ago, and even this time last year, there were serious doubts. Surely, after all that had happened in 2007, and with Ron Dennis back in charge, he couldn’t return to McLaren?

He could and he did, though. After five happy but ultimately unsuccessful years with Ferrari, the Spaniard has been forced to find pastures new in search of his third world title. McLaren and Alonso need each other if they are to return to the front of the field once again; it will be interesting to see how the next two or three years develop.

Things will undoubtedly improve for McLaren. Without a win in two years, it hasn’t been able to hold a candle to the leading teams. Then again, you could argue that without Alonso, Ferrari would have been in the same boat. McLaren now has a driver who is widely regarded as being the best pound-for-pound in F1. If anyone can get through the inevitable teething problems and struggles of a new engine supplier, it is him.

Jenson Button is a driver that cannot be written off either. He may have come close to losing his seat over the winter, but he proved in the second half of last season that he still has what it takes to fight at the very top of F1. His is a firm fan favorite and well-embedded in the McLaren family. In a straight fight, he may not be as quick as Alonso, but he will still play a crucial role in the success of the McLaren-Honda partnership.

The puzzle pieces are all fitting together at Woking. There is now an impressive triumvirate made up of Ron Dennis, Eric Boullier and Jonathan Neale running the team, whilst its line-up is arguably one of the mot powerful that F1 has ever seen.

McLaren may be looking back in shaping its future, but all of the decisions taken have been with one endgame in mind: winning. The remit would have read: “Get the drivers and the engine supplier that will give us the best shot of winning the title again”.

And you know what? McLaren may have done exactly that. Success may not come immediately, but this is a team that is ready to fight back with a vengeance.

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Seattle


The final results from the Monster Energy Supercross race in Seattle suggests the season is turning into a two-rider battle as Eli Tomac scored his sixth win of the season to tie Cooper Webb for the points’ lead and Chase Sexton crashed in yet another race.

Tomac downplayed the neck strain that caused him to lose the red plate for two weeks, but without that holding him back, it would appear it might have been a bigger problem than he admitted. Despite finishing on the podium in Detroit, Tomac has not shown the late-race strength everyone has come to expect. He was in a slump after scoring a season-worst in Indianapolis and described his sixth win as a “bounce back”.

With this win, Tomac tied James Stewart for second on the all-time list with 50 career Supercross victories. Six rounds remain and there is no sign that Tomac is slowing down. Jeremy McGrath’s 72 wins remains untouchable, for the moment at least.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Overall Results; Click here for 250 Overall Results

Cooper Webb was disappointed with second-place, but he recognized the Supercross results at Seattle could have been much worse. He rode in fifth for the first nine laps of the race, behind Tomac and Sexton. When Sexton crashed from the lead and Tomac took the top spot, Webb knew he could not afford to give up that many points and so he dug deep and found enough points to share the red plate when the series returns in two weeks in Glendale, Arizona for a Triple Crown event.

Justin Barcia scored his third podium of the season, breaking out of a threeway tie of riders who have not been the presumed favorites to win the championship. Barcia scored the podium without drama or controversy. It was his fourth consecutive top-five and his 10th straight finish of eighth or better.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

Jason Anderson kept his perfect record of top-10s alive with a fourth-place finish. Tied for fourth in the standings and 49 out of the lead, his season has been like a death of a thousand cuts. He’s ridden exceptionally well, but the Big Three have simply been better.

Sexton rebounded from his fall to finish fifth. He entered the race 17 points out of the lead and lost another five in Seattle. Mistakes have cost Sexton 22 points in the last three races and that is precisely how far he is behind Tomac and Webb. Unless those two riders bobble, this deficit cannot overcome.

The rider who ties Anderson for fourth in the points, Ken Roczen finished just outside the top five in sixth after he battled for a podium position early in the race.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

The 250 West riders got back in action after four rounds of sitting on the sideline and Jett Lawrence picked up where he left of: in Victory Lane. Lawrence now has four wins and a second-place finish in five rounds. One simply doesn’t get close to perfection than that.

Between them, the Lawrence brothers have won all but two races though 11 rounds. Jett failed to win the Anaheim Triple Crown and Hunter Lawrence failed to win the Arlington Triple Crown format in the 250 East division. In two weeks, the series has their final Triple Crown race in Glendale. When he was reminded of this from the top of the Seattle podium, Jett replied, “oof”.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

RJ Hampshire finished second in the race and is second in the points. This is fourth time in five rounds that Hampshire finished second to Lawrence. If not for a crash-induced 11th-place finish in the Arlington Triple Crown, he would be much closer in the points standings. With that poor showing, he is 23 points behind Lawrence.

Cameron McAdoo made a lot of noise in his heat. Riding aggressively beside Larwence, the two crashed in the preliminary. McAdoo could never seem to get away from Hampshire in the Main and as the two battled, the leader got away. It would have been interesting to see how they would have raced head-to-head when points were on the line.

Click here for 250 Overall results | 250 West Rider Points | 250 Combined Rider Points

The Supercross results in Seattle were kind to a couple of riders on the cusp of the top five. Enzo Lopes scored his second top-five and fourth top-10 of the season after crossing the finish line fourth in Seattle.

Tying his best finish of the season for the third time, Max Vohland kept his perfect record of top-10s alive. Vohland is seventh in the points.

2023 Results

Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Tomac, H Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Tomac, J Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, J Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 10: Chase Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Cooper Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s