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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.


Bruce McLaren

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.

2 Responses to “Survival in Formula One”

  1. Whilst your points are valid, McLaren are not the ones to be too worried at this stage. Its that other famous British team that should beware for 10 seasons have past with no championships won. I am referring to Williams, who seem ever more to remind me of Tyrrell.

    I hope WGPE will at least win something this year else it will be 3 seasons since they last won anything.

  2. I agree, Qwerty. In fact, I debated with myself whether to include Williams in the article but decided that McLaren was the main point (I started with Newey’s observations, after all) and that a discussion of Williams’ plight could wait for another post. When a team start taking on drivers purely because they’re cheap (as I’m sure was the case with Alex Wurz – even if he does prove better than we expect), it’s a sure sign that finances are beginning to bite. To me, it looks inevitable that Toyota will take them over in the end.

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