McLaren planning to develop MP4-30 until Abu Dhabi

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McLaren has confirmed that it is planning to develop the Honda-powered MP4-30 car right up to the final race of the 2015 Formula 1 season as it continues to fight back from a difficult start to the year.

Since ending its engine supply deal with Mercedes at the end of 2014 and switching to Honda power units, the team has struggled with a number of technical issues on its car.

Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso may have three world titles and almost 50 grand prix wins between them, but neither driver could prevent McLaren from suffering its worst ever start to an F1 season.

However, the time difference to the front of the field has rapidly decreased in the first four races, and chief engineer Peter Prodromou believes that McLaren needed to take a step back before it could move forwards.

“Over the last couple of seasons, the team slightly lost its way aerodynamically,” Prodromou said. “It became obvious that if we’d carried on with the previous concept, there’d only be so much we could achieve.

“So we’ve begun to establish a new aerodynamic concept, and a different way of working, too. That new concept has majorly shaped where the team’s heading in the future.

“Next year’s car will be an evolution of this year’s, so we need to keep developing it right until the final race.”

Director of engineering Matt Morris said that the MP4-31 in 2016 would be an evolution of this year’s car, warranting the longer development curve for the 2015 model.

“The 2016 regulations aren’t significantly changing and we’re not going through the process of introducing a new engine, as we’ve done for the last two years,” Morris said.

“So we’ll keep developing. A lot of what we learn at the track this year will naturally evolve into next year’s car.”

Racing director Eric Boullier has no concerns about the driver line-up, though, and thinks that the experience both Alonso and Button provide is doing wonders for the McLaren-Honda project.

“The driver line-up has made a big difference,” Boullier said. “Jenson’s attitude and feedback have always been phenomenal, but this year he’s raised his game again.

“Our drivers are really committed. They’re world champions, they want to win again, they believe in the project, and they’re pushing hard. They don’t leave anything on the table in terms of performance, which is fantastic.”

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994