2015 Mid-season report
As we enter the annual F1 summer shutdown, we take a moment to look back at the season so far. Relive the key moments of the McLaren-Honda 2015 F1 campaign in our mid-season review.
There probably wasn’t a more bitingly cold January night than that of Monday 19th, when our intrepid marketing film crew worked until 1am in temperatures of -4 degrees to pull together one of the many brand videos for the launch of the MP4-30. In a car park. In Woking. Who ever said F1 was glamorous?
It was all worth it, though, because the #MakeHistory campaign reached a potential social and digital audience of more than 43 million people, successfully announcing the beginning of a new era in McLaren’s history, and the rekindling of the mighty McLaren-Honda legend.
Relive the moment the wraps came off MP4-30 for the very first time:
Eric Boullier: “The day when the new car finally comes together, after months of hard work, is always exciting. It’s one of those times that brings everybody together – people find a reason to come into the racebays to catch a glimpse. I remember when the MP4-30 was finally complete, before it was loaded onto the truck for Jerez: the racebays were packed with people, and there was a real feeling of pride and satisfaction at what we’d created. Sure, it’s been a tough season for everyone at McLaren-Honda, but there’s a belief that we’ve made the correct decisions to get to where we are, and that we’re all headed in the right direction.”
January’s biggest Tweet:
If the long January nights made the whole team feel positive – and the sight of the still-new MP4-30 in the racebays attracted significant attention from the team – then the test sessions in Spain were a baptism of fire. The MP4-30’s ‘size zero’ package was proving hard to make reliable, while a test shunt for Fernando Alonso would have dramatic repercussions – prompting the Spaniard to sit out the opening race of the season in Australia.
Tim Goss: “We knew that those weeks in Spain were going to be tough. We’d seen just how difficult it was during pre-season testing a year earlier, and for Honda – a brand-new manufacturer – the learning curve was even steeper than for our rivals. Testing is always tough – the days are long, the weather is cold, and you’re working constantly to solve problems and find solutions – but it felt exciting to see the roots of this new team, McLaren-Honda, take shape and form in that pit garage. I think when we got on the plane to Melbourne, we were working as a team, with a common purpose, and that felt good.”
February’s biggest Tweet:
If the team arrived in Melbourne feeling unsure about either pace or reliability, at least the Australian Grand Prix demonstrated that we could get a car to the finish. Jenson came home 11th, in stark contrast to our super-sub Kevin Magnussen, who was drafted in to replace Fernando. He retired on the lap to the grid.
Fernando would only sit out one race, and showed all his old fire when he returned to the track in Malaysia, battling on the fringes of the top 10.
Kevin Magnussen: “Obviously, I wasn’t expecting to go racing in 2015, but Fernando’s testing accident suddenly changed everything for me. I didn’t have the best preparation – I’d only driven the car for 39 laps before free practice in Australia – but I knew the job, and what was required of me. The car failure on race day was bitterly disappointing, but perhaps the strangest feeling was when I arrived in Malaysia a fortnight later: Fernando was back in the car and I knew I wouldn’t be starting the race. That was the moment when it hit me that my role had changed – I wasn’t the race driver any more, I was the reserve. I’ve spent every day since then focusing on getting myself back into a race seat…”
March’s biggest Tweet:
If Australia showed signs of reliability, and Malaysia hinted at latent pace, it was only in China that we brought them together, getting both cars to the finish line in 12th (Fernando) and 14th (Jenson).
A week later, in Bahrain, McLaren Young Driver Stoffel Vandoorne kicked off his GP2 campaign in dominant style, taking pole and victory in Saturday’s feature race, then finishing second in Sunday’s sprint. It was to be the first of four successive feature race wins for the Belgian.
Jonathan Neale: “We introduced a sizeable aero upgrade to the car in Malaysia – new floor, new front wing, a lot of detail work. We know we still have some way to go, but there’s been no let-up in determination and workflow at the factory. In fact, I’m particularly pleased with how we’ve been able to cut our time-to-market, so we can get components from the design stage to manufacturing a lot faster than ever before, and that’s had a real positive knock-on effect on track performance. We’ve got a lot of muscle in manufacturing these days.”
April’s biggest Tweet:
Formula 1’s return to Europe prompted a change of livery, and the new anthracite grey MP4-30 duly broke cover ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. The Barcelona weekend also saw the successful launch of TAG Heuer’s #DontCrackUnderPressure campaign.
The accompanying video saw Fernando take to the track in Ayrton Senna’s iconic McLaren-Honda MP4/4:
TAG Heuer also celebrated its 30 years of McLaren partnership by uniting Fernando with a 3D hologram of Ayrton at a glitzy event in downtown Barcelona.
A fortnight later, Jenson earned McLaren-Honda its first world championship points for 25 years when he expertly steered his car to eighth position in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Jenson Button: “We knew that Monaco would provide us with a good opportunity to punch above our weight and score some points. But that’s easier said than done: it’s easy to make a mistake, and just a single error can wreck your race, so you have to be extremely focused if you’re to succeed around the streets of the principality. I really enjoyed the weekend – it was good to be able to fight with some of the top cars; and my race went really smoothly, I just got my head down. The points were a nice reward for a great job from the whole team.”
May’s biggest Tweet:
A huge behind-the-scenes push to devise, crash-test and manufacture our striking new aero kit ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix largely came to nought when Fernando got caught up in a massive first-lap shunt that wrote off the entire catalogue of parts.
Bruised but not broken, we picked ourselves up and built more new components, only for Jenson’s race to be stymied at Silverstone, again on the first lap.
Away from the grand prix circus, our test and development driver Oliver Turvey pushed hard to finish runner-up in LMP2 at the Le Mans 24 Hours – his second successive podium in the famous enduro.
Elsewhere, Fernando officially opened his museum and kart centre in his hometown of Oviedo, in northern Spain.
Matt Morris: “The upgrade we introduced for Austria was a big one: pretty much every wetted surface was modified, and the new nosebox had to be crash-tested to meet FIA safety requirements. Making something smaller and more aerodynamic, and still ensuring it can pass through some pretty stringent deceleration tests, is no small feat, and I have to say that our design and manufacturing departments did an incredible job to get the nosebox to pass those tests so quickly. The fact that we didn’t get to properly test and race those parts in Austria is jus a fact of life in racing. We just put our heads down and made sure we had more parts ready for the next race.”
June’s biggest Tweet:
After a bereft few races, our home race at Silverstone finally brought some respite, with Fernando earning his first McLaren-Honda point by finishing 10th. Our pitcrew also achieved its fastest stop of the season so far, clocking 2.52s on Fernando’s car on lap 17 of the British Grand Prix.
SKY Sports F1 followed the team for the week before the Silverstone race, producing this brilliant film about life inside McLaren:
Meanwhile, Esso kicked off its #FuelYourSenses campaign, which culminated in this incredible VR video – watch it on a compatible browser:
Also at Silverstone, Johnnie Walker’s #JoinThePact campaign appeared on the car’s sidepods. Then, in Hungary, both drivers sported stunning golden boots to celebrate the 10th year of the partnership.
In fact, the Hungarian race was our best showing so far: Fernando was always a contender for points, and took full advantage of the chaotic closing laps to vault to fifth. Jenson, too, drove a faultless race, but was hampered by the inability to attack on ageing rubber. He came home ninth.
Finally, ever the sportsman, Jenson finished 11th in the fourth Jenson Button Trust Triathlon, held in Derby.
Fernando Alonso: “We’re still not where we want to be, but the result in Hungary shows that we’re headed in the right direction. To be able to take on and race the other cars felt great, and, while the result was largely achieved through attrition, we showed throughout that we had to pace to fight for the points. This car has been beautifully balanced all season, and was just something I could really push all the way through the race. I’m really looking forward to the second half of the season, I think we’ll see more progress.”