McLaren Honda’s new era likely will take time to recapture the past glory days


McLaren and Honda reunite in 2015 for the first time since 1992. And while the two entities may ultimately recapture the glory days together, it is likely going to take time to get there.

The reunion comes following the 24-year interlude with Mercedes-Benz for 20 seasons, and a year apiece with Peugeot and Ford in the mid-1990s.

Heading into Melbourne, a circuit where both McLaren drivers finished on the podium a year ago, the team enters 2015 far from the position they hoped to be.

It’s been something of a trying offseason since the final Grand Prix of the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi.

The driver lineup was delayed until mid-December, which caused a small bit of angst. Granted, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button remain two of F1’s best drivers and as recently as four or five years ago, you might have called them the best overall lineup on the grid (perhaps you still could, although Mercedes or Ferrari might beg to differ).

But neither driver got the chance to do much running over the winter, with the team barely completing more than 200 laps over 12 days of running in Spain. Reliability issues seemed to sabotage running nearly every day.

Add to that the intrigue, speculation, obfuscation and varying dissemination of information surrounding Alonso’s testing accident in Barcelona, and you have a giant stew of question marks heading into the season.

Drivers and team personnel are both high on experience, but their patience level might be tested. At least initially, the new Honda era at McLaren is more likely going to be focused on development rather than outright pace or performance at the sharp end of the grid in its first year.

Consider Honda is at the point of its power unit curve development where the other three on the grid, Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault, were a year ago.

When the car’s ran, it’s looked semi-respectable – perhaps the fifth or sixth best chassis on the grid. But it will likely take until the European rounds, at least, to see the potential begin to be realized.

It probably won’t be this year that McLaren hits the high notes of glory as they did nearly 30 years ago, when McLaren won four consecutive World Championships from 1988 to 1991, three with Ayrton Senna and one with Alain Prost. In the intervening 24 years since, the team’s drivers have won only three titles.

As the car develops, McLaren is likely to be closer to the front, perhaps as the third or fourth best package, where it’s been the last two years. Button and Alonso – when he returns – will need to spend time sorting the package out, and be afforded more opportunity by Ron Dennis and the rest of management with which to do so.

It wasn’t really fair to either Sergio Perez or Kevin Magnussen the last two years to see them removed after one season apiece. Both drivers had good moments, but neither had a great car to work with, and found themselves on the chopping block rather quickly.

Heading into 2015, Alonso is now 33 and Button 35. They’re two of the most experienced drivers on the grid, but they’re closer to the ends of their illustrious, World Championship-winning careers than the beginning.

They more than anyone on the grid in 2015 have the most experience in managing midlevel cars and exceeding the expectations, and they’ll likely need to utilize that experience in spades.

Still, time is a precious, valuable commodity. These two drivers may be able to deal with the developmental process for at least a year, but beyond that may stretch their patience.

From the team side, McLaren hasn’t helped itself with its handling of Alonso’s accident from a PR or communications standpoint. Alonso is out for at least the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, and possibly more if his health isn’t up to scratch for Malaysia and beyond. Magnussen will get at least one race to show what he can do.

It’s weird that two of the most illustrious – and successful – brands in F1 history enter 2015 with such low expectations, but preseason testing has not afforded the team the benefit of the doubt.

The 2015 season may be the beginning of a glorious new partnership between the two, but it also may start the countdown clock until the patience runs out.

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports