Survival in Formula One
Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s feted designer, is of the opinion that McLaren will return to form this year after failing to win a race in 2006. I would agree, particularly as Newey makes many of the points I mentioned in my post of October 12th.
But it does not have to be so. Nothing in F1 is guaranteed and the list of famous constructors that eventually failed and disappeared grows longer as the years pass by. There was a time when we could not imagine the sport without Lotus but now they are but a distant memory.
Great names have come and gone; F1 respects no-one forever. Alfa Romeo (twice!), Maserati, BRM, Cooper, Brabham, Tyrrell, all came, won their races, and then experienced the long decline into also-rans and a quiet withdrawal when the money dried up. Only Ferrari seems immune to the aging process.
It is not inevitable that McLaren survive, therefore. Although they look set for the future with the giant Mercedes standing behind them, it would take only a few more years of disappointing results for their friends to desert them and the executioner waiting at the gates to be given the nod. Success is the lifeblood of F1 teams.
In fact, McLaren have done very well over the years, surviving the death of their founder, Bruce McLaren, a long period of decline under Teddy Mayer, and experiencing rebirth under the guidance of Ron Dennis. But it looks as though Ron is preparing for retirement and who knows what will happen after he goes? The likelihood is that Mercedes would take over the team but even then nothing is assured; manufacturers tend to come and go as they please.
This coming season is as much a make-or-break year for McLaren as it is for Giancarlo Fisichella over at Renault. Both are desperately in need of some success to rekindle the fires of old. If the MP4-22 fails to be the vehicle for Alonso’s continued challenge for another championship, Ron’s retirement will inevitably be hastened and the team put their hopes in an unknown future under the wing of a manufacturer.
That might well mean the disappearance of the name McLaren – team owners tend to like their own names to be on the cars. It may be entirely appropriate that a movie about Bruce McLaren is being made at this moment.
All conjecture, of course, and the future may turn out very differently. Only one thing is certain: F1 is a hard and unforgiving sport.