DC: Stuff at McLaren very ‘unMcLaren like’

Date published: March 10 2015

David Coulthard admits he "can't get his head around the situation" at McLaren ahead of the start of the new season.

McLaren's renewed partnership with Honda didn't get off to the best of starts as the team had a nightmare pre-season during which they completed only a handful of laps.

To add insult to injury, they will be without Fernando Alonso for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend as the double World Champion was advised to sit out the race after he suffered a concussion during a crash in the second test.

BBC F1 commentator Coulthard admits he is not quite sure what is going on at the Woking squad.

"I just can't get my head around the situation and all the difficulties they've had. Honda [who supply McLaren’s power unit] are behind right now and it will take them time to catch up. But they had an extra year to develop their engine. Last year, when the new engines were introduced, Ferrari and Renault didn’t do as good a job as Mercedes," he told the Guardian.

"But while all that was happening Honda had already signed to McLaren and had a year learning and developing, so it’s really weird. There’s stuff going on there which is very unMcLaren like. But then they’ve had a pretty bad run for years now."

McLaren last won the Drivers' Championship in 2008 while their last Constructor's title came 1998. Even more worryingly, the team have failed to win a race the past two seasons.

The McLaren Group have pumped a lot of effort into their road car division in recent years and Coulthard warns they need to focus on Formula 1 if they want to get back on track.

"Ron Dennis [the chairman of the McLaren Group] has this desire to grow the group and launch cars and run a Formula One team. But no one can give 100% to two things. It’s physically impossible," the former F1 driver said.

"They brought the F1 sports car out in the 1990s and then the Formula One team dropped off for a while. Then the Formula One team came up before they did the SLR with Mercedes, and then the racing team went down. Then it went up again and then, recently they brought out another road car, the P1, and the F1 team has gone down again. There is definitely this cycle.

"You need investment to develop a road car project. And if you are putting time and energy into finding money for the road car the less time and energy you’re putting into the Formula One.

"The reason Red Bull won four championships is not because it’s an historic name in Formula One but because they invested in the right guys and they were all totally focused on one thing.

"It was the same thing at Ferrari when they had the Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn period. They were totally focused and they created this winning machine. And when that focus disappeared the team lost their way.

"Last year there were changes at McLaren but it was a very disappointing year for them. They had all this restructuring going on and they had a good engine but they just didn’t have a good car. They might not have the best engine now, in the Honda. But you’ve got to believe their design team can do a better job than they have done. They’ve got amazing design facilities. If this was a competition to decide who had the best facilities to design the best piece of kit McLaren would win the world championship every year. Ferrari is a pretty tired and run-down place. Red Bull is an industrial estate in Milton Keynes. It’s not sexy."