August 5, 2021, 0:23

McLaren’s changes since their last F1 race victory at 2012 Brazilian GP

McLaren’s changes since their last F1 race victory at 2012 Brazilian GP

Sunday’s Brazilian GP will mark an unwelcome landmark for McLaren as they return to Interlagos, the scene of their last F1 race victory five years ago.

Since Jenson Button took the chequered flag on November 25 2012, the 20-time world champions have gone 96 grands prix without a victory.

In that time, McLaren have slipped to ninth in the Constructors’ Championship and seen plenty of changes – and not just the engine sort.

Here Sky F1 takes a closer look…

Remembering Button’s victory in Brazil
Lewis Hamilton, in his final race for the team, claimed McLaren’s last pole position and he and Button were involved in an epic duel in the opening laps, the pair exchanging the lead three times in the first eight laps.

Button’s McLaren career to end
When’s the Brazilian GP on Sky?

But in mixed conditions, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg eventually closed on the two Brits and took the lead from Hamilton on lap 18.

A look back at the 2012 Brazilian GP where Sebastian Vettel needed only to finish fourth to claim his third World Championship

Hamilton would reclaim the lead in the second half of the race before Hulkenberg span into him attempting a pass on lap 55, scuppering the Briton’s dream of a winning exit from McLaren and leaving Button to pick up his 15th and final F1 win.

Button’s victory was McLaren’s seventh of the season, matching the haul of world champions Red Bull.

Since then, however, the team have gone 96 races without a win, almost doubling their previous longest winless streak of 53 set between the 1977 Japanese GP and 1981 British GP, while McLaren have only recorded two podium finishes – inheriting second and third at the 2014 Australian GP after Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified.

Hamilton’s departure leads to driver merry-go-round
Following three years of driver stability, Hamilton’s departure has been followed by four different McLaren driver line-ups in the past five seasons.

Having finished the 2012 season with the quickest car, McLaren’s 2013 design proved to be a disaster and Sergio Perez – signed as Hamilton’s replacement – struggled badly, finishing 11th in the Drivers’ Championship and being outscored by Button by 24 points.

The Mexican wasn’t given a second chance or a second year – at the end of 2013, Perez was dumped in favour of then McLaren development driver Kevin Magnussen.

But, despite being the last McLaren driver to physically stand on the podium, Magnussen would also only last a year before making way for Fernando Alonso’s return to McLaren for 2015 when the Spaniard became Button’s fourth different team-mate in as many years.

Alonso and Button remained McLaren’s line-up for 2016 but Button’s 2017 sabbatical, which has subsequently evolved into a full retirement from F1, saw Stoffel Vandoorne promoted to a full race seat alongside Alonso. It’s a line-up which will be unchanged for 2018.

F1 2018: Driver line-ups, schedule and test dates

Ron returns to Ron gone
If you live by the sword, you die by the sword and there have been two high-profile power struggles at the top of McLaren’s management in recent years.

Martin Whitmarsh was McLaren team principal and CEO when Button won in Brazil, but within 14 months he had been ousted as Ron Dennis effectively staged an internal coup to regain control after the struggles of 2013.

Dennis returned to his previous role as group CEO and formed a new management structure with Eric Boullier arriving as racing director, while Whitmarsh eventually left McLaren in August 2014.

But last November Dennis stepped down from his role as McLaren chairman and chief executive following another tumultuous board meeting. Dennis had been involved in a bitter boardroom row with fellow owners Mansour Ojjeh, and Mumtalakat, the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund.

Dennis steps down at McLaren
Dennis sells McLaren stake

Zak Brown joined McLaren as executive director following another management restructure in the wake of Dennis’ departure.

In June, Dennis sold his shares in McLaren Technology Group and McLaren Automotive, ending his 37-year association with the company.

McLaren’s key staff in 2012 – where are they now? Name 2012 role Where are they now? Martin Whitmarsh Team principal and CEO CEO for BAR Technologies and advisor to Land Rover BAR Paddy Lowe Technical director Chief technical officer at Williams Sam Michael Sporting director Mentor at Triple Eight Race Engineering David Redding Team manager Team manager at Williams Still at McLaren Tim Goss Director of engineering Chief technical officer – chassis Jonathan Neale Managing director McLaren Technology Group chief operating officer Simon Roberts Operations director Chief operating officer Paul James Chief mechanic Team manager Key staff additions since 2012 Name Role Zak Brown Executive director Eric Boullier Racing director Peter Prodromou Chief technical officer – aero Matt Morris Chief engineering officer

The mystery of the missing sponsors
Remember the days when McLaren overalls were covered in sponsors?

One of the most visible changes at McLaren over the past five years has been the increasing amount of blank space on their car and drivers.

McLaren have been without a title sponsor since Vodafone ended their deal a year early in 2013 while the team have also seen prominent partners Hugo Boss and Tag Heuer leave for rivals Mercedes and Red Bull. Exxon Mobil also became Red Bull’s official fuel supplier this year after a 21-year association with McLaren.

Despite McLaren’s hard times, Dennis had refused to lower his asking price for advertising space, saying in 2015 “the worst thing you can do is get into a situation where you drop your rate card and everything spirals out of control”.

But since his appointment as executive director, marketing guru Brown – who had previously helped broker several McLaren sponsorship deals including with Johnnie Walker, Hilton and Chandon – has made attracting new commercial partners a priority.

“There’s lots of space on the McLaren race car that needs filling with top luxury brands,” Brown said last November.

“We need partners and ultimately a title partner is a critical partner. We need to become a more attractive proposition to commercial partners.”

The ill-fated Honda project
Without doubt, McLaren’s engine sagas have taken up the most column inches over the past five years.

Within six months of their Brazil victory, McLaren had announced they would be dropping Mercedes power in order to reforge their previously all-conquering partnership with Honda from 2015.

Dennis was adamant securing a works engine was vital to McLaren winning the world championship again, saying in October 2014: “No grand prix team is going to win a world championship in the future unless it is the dominant recipient of an engine manufacturer’s efforts.”

But the switch to Honda has been an unmitigated disaster.

In their three seasons back with the Japanese manufacturer, McLaren have amassed an eye-watering 845 places worth of grid penalties for engine changes, the equivalent of 6.760km – more than double the length of Monaco’s street circuit.

They have managed just 29 points finishes – only one more than they managed in the 2012 season alone – a best result of fifth, and have racked up 42 retirements.

McLaren confirm Honda divorce
Defining McLaren Honda moments
McLaren: Honda spell a ‘disaster’

A catastrophic 2017 season saw McLaren announce they would divorce Honda at the end of the year to switch to Renault.

But will that elusive victory arrive before the winless streak hits a century?

The 2017 title race may be over, but the racing definitely isn’t! Get set for Mercedes v Ferrari v Red Bull in the Brazilian GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1. The race begins at 4pm on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!


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