F1 2015 team preview: McLaren

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McLaren

Drivers
No. 14 Fernando Alonso
No. 22 Jenson Button

First Race: 1966 Monaco Grand Prix
Grands Prix: 767
Pole Positions: 
155
Fastest Laps: 
152
Race Wins: 
182
Constructors’ Championships: 
8
2014 Championship Result: 
5th (181 points)

For McLaren, 2015 is all about new beginnings. Since the departure of Lewis Hamilton at the end of the 2012 season, the team has struggled to fight at the front of the field, scoring just two podium finishes in the past two years. Widespread changes have been made, with Jenson Button entering 2014 with his fourth different teammate in as many seasons. This time around though, it isn’t a young driver full of potential, but instead the man many believe is the best pound-to-pound racer in F1: Fernando Alonso.

Alonso’s arrival isn’t the biggest news at Woking this year though. After 20 seasons with Mercedes as its engine supplier, McLaren has switched over to Honda power, reforging the famed partnership of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Button and Alonso have a big task to emulate Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, and the testing season has been a difficult one for the team due to problems with the new engine. However, when the MP4-30 gets going, the team could yet find its way back to the front of the field in 2014.

FERNANDO ALONSO No. 14

Returning to McLaren is something that Fernando Alonso would have thought unthinkable seven years ago. The Spaniard joined the British team off the back of his titles with Renault in 2007, only to fall out with the team, get entangled in an espionage scandal and ultimately lose both championships. He left with his tail between his legs at the end of the year. Apparently all is forgiven, but this could be Alonso’s last chance for a third championship. He is unquestionably one of the most talented drivers in the sport, but after being forced out of Ferrari, McLaren is the last team that can really offer him a title-winning package. It could turn out to be an inspired move.

JENSON BUTTON No. 22

We never knew whether 2014 would be a Formula 1 swansong for Jenson Button, and it was only in mid-December when McLaren confirmed he’d be back was the concern alleviated. Button has endured through several periods of F1 throughout his career dating to 2000, and the one he embarks on now is akin to a new development project with the Honda-powered McLaren MP4-30. Testing has been a struggle, but the consummate professional continues to press on and make the most of it regardless of the circumstances. Reliability will be the key point early, but by mid-year Button and McLaren could be in decent points contention.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”