McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team would see finishing below fourth in the 2017 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship as a disappointment.
Honda reunited as the engine supplier with McLaren ahead of the 2015 season but faced a tough year, with Fernando Alonso retiring nine times in nineteen races, while team-mate Jenson Button retired on six occasions, with most of these retirements due to mechanical problems with the car. As a result, in their first year back together they finished the Constructors’ Championship in ninth, nine points behind the Sauber F1 Team.
There was improvements in reliability and performance during the 2016 season, which enabled them to fight towards the front of the midfield. The team ended the season in sixth, as Alonso and Button scored consistently. This was thirteen points clear of Scuderia Toro Rosso but sixty-two points behind Williams Martini Racing in fifth.
Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Neale believes McLaren is capable of improving on from its 2016 finish, as they have drivers who are capable of winning and the changes in the regulations.
“You’ve got to aim high, but right now I would be disappointed if we were fourth,” Neale told Autosport. “That’s probably the pragmatist’s view, but you don’t make progress as pragmatists.
“We want to win and we want to win sooner. We’ve got a race team, we’ve got drivers that are capable of winning, and between the chassis and engine, both ourselves and Honda need to bridge that gap in performance.
“The new aerodynamic platform and the great uncertainty over tyres throws an opportunity at us, and I’d like to think that we can capitalise on that. But it’s unknown.”
When asked what success would look like for McLaren in 2017, racing director Eric Boullier replied, “To win,” but admitted that it would take time for McLaren to start to challenge for wins.
“In reality, I want to be pragmatic and not set expectations too high,” he said. “We were ninth [in 2015], sixth last year so hopefully we’re in the top four this year.
“We want to win as early as possible, but I’m dealing with the reality. I’m very happy with the Honda approach and I’m happy with the group of engineers we have in McLaren – it’s working absolutely perfectly now.
“They are working hard, but the days when you can turn up with a new aero kit on the car and gain one second are finished. Now it’s incremental gains all the time. And it’s also just time.”