Back in October last year, I warned that it would be foolish to write off McLaren just because they had a bad season. And I admit to some relief that they have proved me right so far (unlike Honda).
When McLaren are good, they are very, very good and they will not lose competitiveness as the season progresses. The car is marginally less quick than the Ferrari at the moment but is likely to get better as the efficiency of the team ensures that improvement continues. The well-oiled machine is up and running and will not let up until all memory of 2006 is erased by a championship.
There has been a lot of speculation that Alonso is becoming rattled by the speed of his teammate. Don’t you believe it. Fernando knows that he is still quickest and he has been in this situation before – in the Renault team, Fisichella was faster than him on rare occasions, after all, but was never going to threaten him for the championship. Alonso/Hamilton is turning out to be a brilliant pairing of excellent drivers but it is the Spaniard who will emerge as the main contender this season. Hamilton’s turn will come later.
Whether we like it or not, the reason for McLaren’s success and efficiency is Ron Dennis. Mike Lawrence of Pitpass has written a very good article on the man that explains the kind of commitment and dedication required to get an F1 team to the level of McLaren. Ron is probably the best team boss of the lot, and that includes Jean Todt.
So the most likely scenario this year is the double for McLaren: the contructor’s award and Alonso as world drivers champion. More debatable is what happens thereafter; Ron has declared that he will step down within the next five years and it remains to be seen what will happen then. Martin Whitmarsh will be the boss but the possibility of Ross Brawn joining the team could make them even stronger in the future. We shall see.
This has been the most difficult to write of all these early season assessments; once the McLaren steamroller gets going, there are few dramas or problems that get in its way. And it’s the difficulties that give us something to talk about – success is just, well, success…