New McLaren chief Zac Brown has urged caution ahead of the 2017 season, conceding that McLaren-Honda are “not going to be winning any races” this year.
McLaren have not won a single grand prix since 2012 while last year’s best race results were two P5s achieved by Fernando Alonso in Monaco and the United States.
It was, however, still a better showing than the previous season.
In 2015, swapping from Mercedes to Honda power, McLaren managed just 27 points to finish ninth in the championship. Last year they scored 76 on their way to sixth.
But, with new regulations in play this season, McLaren personnel and fans are hoping for another huge leap forward.
Brown, though, has warned that the leap is unlikely to include race wins.
“I’ve been impressed but not surprised as to how deep the passion is at McLaren through its employees and their desire to win,” he told RACER.
“I think they’re all frustrated, as you can imagine, and eager to get back to our winning ways.
“I don’t think our results the last couple of years are something that the team is accustomed to. They don’t like it, and they want to turn things around.
“At the same time, it’s one step at a time, so while we’re doing all the right things, [to get] success we need to move up the grid.
“I would caution we’re not going to be winning any races in the next year, I don’t anticipate. So we need to be measured on forward progress as opposed to ultimate results in 2017.
“We’ve got the enthusiasm to be winning races and the championship, but I don’t think we’re there yet with our overall package, and therefore I’m just eager to see us keep moving up the grid and get ourselves into a position to start winning races in 2018.”
Brown, who joined McLaren in December following the ousting of Ron Dennis, acknowledges that a big of his job today is managing expectations.
“Ohh yeah, absolutely,” he replied. “I like the enthusiasm but we need to keep realistic.
“Patience isn’t something that anyone in racing necessarily has a lot of – it’s not that type of sport – but if we set expectations too high then we’re setting ourselves up for failure. So we’ve got to let our enthusiasm and passion drive us but not set ourselves up for failure.
“When it comes to sponsorship, it’s very kind that some people have very high expectations and are asking me questions about title sponsorship; I’ve been on the job 45 days, it takes a year to find a title sponsor and there’s no guarantee.
“Our results are very visible both on the track and on the car, so that comes with a certain amount of pressure, a lot of pressure, but as you will have seen I’ve told people to not expect miracles in 2017.
“What I’ve said internally is I think 2017 is going to feel good – meaning the team is going to come together, we’re excited, we’re working well – [but] I think 2018 is going to look good. So to the naked eye you may not see as much progress as we’re going to see internally from ’17, but ’18 is going to be a year when people can really start to see a difference.”