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

0 Comments

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.

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
0 Comments

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.


Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX