I’ve been fascinated by and have followed Formula 1 racing since high school. Unlike NASCAR or Indy racing, the technology, and the budgets of F1 are in another world. And when a team of engineers has a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, there’s no telling hat they’ll come up with. Over the years I’ve watched clever teams subjugate the rule book by chilling the fuel (lower temperatures allowed the fuel tank to hold more fuel); forcing exhaust gas over a movable rear wing to increase the car’s grip; create an electrical charge for hybrid motors by capturing the heat generated by the brakes; use pneumatic bursts of air in lieu of springs to open and close valves because a mechanical spring could never move fast enough when your engine revs to 16,000 rpm. And every year the cars become more fascinating.
And one of the best teams has always been McLaren. Founded by Denis Hulme and Bruce McLaren in the late 1960’s, their team grew to be a technical powerhouse that dominated a variety of racing disciplines. And in the mid 1980s, none other than Honda joined their team as the engine supplier. From 1983 to 1992, Honda engines powered F1 cars to 67 victories, with 44 of those coming from McLaren. And those 44 victories brought McLaren four consecutive world championships.
Following those stunning years, Honda took a hiatus from F1. They came back,sort of half-heartedly, from 2000 to 2004, but not with McLaren. And then in 2014 they announced they would be back with McLaren. And the racing world rejoiced and delighted in this. Fans wondered what sort of technical marvel Honda would produce, what sort of breathtaking innovation would come forth from the Willy Wonka factory of engine manufacturers?
Sadly their return to glory never materialized. While the car above may look like an earthbound missile, it’s been woefully uncompetitive against the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, and Williams. They have two former world champions behind the wheel, the brightest engineers in Japan and England, and a history of technical innovation on their side and they still managed to create an absolute dud of an engine, which created a dud of a car.
What went wrong?
For that you’ll have to ask someone much smarter than me but it’s gotten so bad that one of their drivers recently hoped for an if:
Did Fernando Alonso really say that?
This relationship seemed to have everything going for them. They had the best budget, team, support, leadership, drivers, and so on. And yet here they are, well into their second year as a team and their lead driver is wishing someone in front of him had wrecked because that might have given him the possibility for a podium, i.e. third place.
Trust me when I say that no one in the racing world would’ve expected this arrangement to yield these sort of results.
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