F1 2018 : The Talking Points

Formula One returns next weekend with the first race of 2018 at Albert Park in Melbourne! The period of off-season that was quite dreaded by us F1 fans has finally passed.

After what happened in the pre-season test, we have quite a lot of talking points about this season.

Finally a three-way battle in 2018

While Mercedes once again looked ominous with their reliability in pre-season testing, they didn’t show their hand on the softer compounds, as they did a majority of their running on medium tyres. They were the only team to breach the 1000-lap mark in testing, despite interrupted running in the first test. The W09 is an evolution of the W08, and has looked pretty steady and easy to drive on track. An analysis image showed Bottas taking a wider line into a corner and going full throttle. Something which Ferrari and Red Bull cars were unable to do so.

This year’s Ferrari SF71-H is a departure from last year’s car. It has a longer wheelbase, was spotted testing a Red Bull style diffuser and is devoid of Santander branding; it’s blood-red in color which makes it quite a sight to see on track.

However, as mentioned above, it hasn’t looked as confident as the Mercedes in the corners. It was also observed to be giving off plumes of smoke after it was fired up in the garage – something which is the characteristic of the engine. However, Ferrari set the ultimate pace of the pre-season test on hypersoft tyres. Their lap was almost a second faster than Daniel Ricciardo’s lap in Red Bull on the same compound. Still, there’s belief in the paddock that Ferrari may have slipped behind Red Bull in the pecking order. However. they have a habit to prove the media wrong. In 2016, after they set the pace in pre-season test, they were expected to provide a stern challenge to Mercedes, but it resulted in a win-less season. In 2017, not much was expected from their SF70-H, but that season was the closest season of the hybrid era, and the SF70-H won 5 races; Vettel finished runner-up.

Red Bull launched their RB14 ahead of schedule, thus reversing the trend of previous years. It seems to have paid off. They were on par with Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s pace on the medium tyres, but slower on the hypersofts. However, they look quite confident. The Renault engine is running reliably, while the Adrian Newey designed car certainly brings high expectations with it. A three way battle surely is game on!

A packed mid-field

The works Renault team was the surprise package of pre-season testing when it ran without any major issues, and set lap times comparable with the top three. It could be the team to have made the biggest progress over the winter. Last year was all about restructuring the management after its buyout of Lotus, and this year might well be when they push towards the ultimate goal of the world championship.

McLaren switched to Renault engines this year. While a switch won’t guarantee a race win, it will offer a litmus test for the Woking-based team after it endured three torrid years with Honda. Pre-season testing provided a glimpse. The engine at the back of the car is different, but the car beached in the gravel and being recovered by a crane was a familiar sight. It suffered from basic issues, like the bodywork not being able to withstand the heat, a suspension failure occurring, among others. Such issues were ultimately resolved by changing the engine, which cost them a lot of time. The least that they could have done to prepare for the season would be to get some solid running under their belts. However, on the last day, they surprised everyone when Alonso set the third fastest time of the test on hypersoft tyres. It was only 0.4 seconds slower than Ferrari! Genuine pace, or just an attempt to ward off the negative attention from the media surrounding their reliability concerns? Surely, Alonso and Eric Boullier, the team’s technical chief sound pretty confident.

Honda. who are supplying Toro Rosso this season, proved to be the biggest surprise of them all, with their engine running reliably throughout the test. Toro Rosso also surpassed the 100-lap mark on most days, and Toro Rosso even made cheeky remarks at McLaren after seeing the issues that the team was facing. Honda might have got it right this time around.

Haas impressed with their pace and set the fourth fastest time in the latter stages of testing, which surprised everybody. They will be in the hunt as well.

Rounding off the grid

Williams endured a quiet test, and frequently remained in the latter half of the grid in terms of lap times. They have an inexperienced driver lineup. Paddy Lowe may have made a difference in designing philosophy of the car, but the inexperience of the drivers may hurt the team. Robert Kubica, the team’s development driver was often the fastest of the two.

Sauber got Alfa-Romeo branding last year, and will be running the latest spec Ferrari engines this year. With Charles Leclerc, the current F2 champion and Marcus Ericsson as the drivers, they will look to move up the field and score points regularly. However, the car has proved to be a handful and spun numerous times at the exact same places in the hands of both Leclerc, and Ericsson.

Uncharacteristically, Force India had a quiet test with no flashes of speed whatsoever. They were flying under the radar. However, testing only gives so much of a picture and the real order will be revealed in Australia in 5 days’ time.

All things said, it will prove to be a cracker of a season.


What to expect at the launch of the 2018 F1 cars?

The 2018 F1 season is upon us. It’s only 40 days to go till lights-out in Australia. Teams will be launching their 2018 challengers next week, according to the following schedule:

                          Williams FW41               15th February                          

Red Bull RB14                 19th February

Alfa Romeo Sauber C37  20th February 

Renault R.S.18                  20th February

Ferrari                              22nd February

Mercedes W09                22nd February

McLaren MCL33             23rd February

Toro Rosso STR13            26th February

What to expect?


The most talked about technical and aesthetic change that is coming in 2018 is the Halo. It’s a head protection device which has been trialed on numerous occasions in the past two years, to give us a glimpse of how ugly it will look. Apart from its aesthetic deficiencies, it’s also believed to hamper a driver’s line of vision, and might increase the time in which a driver is able to eject from a car in case of an accident.

On the other hand, numerous simulations have shown how the halo will protect the driver, in case of debris coming from every possible angle, except from directly above the head. It is made of titanium, cost €15,000 and weighs around 14-15 kg. With the FIA adding 6 kg to the existing minimum weight limit of the car (728 kg), it’s quite a headache for the designers to accommodate the halo into the design of the chassis, and there will be problems for heavier drivers.

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Vision of the track from driver’s point of view, with halo on the car.

Recent videos of IndyCar using an aero-screen, similar to what Red Bull trialed a few times, emerged.

Here’s a comparison of how they will look:

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Lewis Hamilton trialing the halo.
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The aeroscreen that will be run in IndyCar.

Conventional Engine Cover returns

The other change, which will be quite visible is the removal of shark fins, and the T-wing. Shark fins made a comeback last year. A lower rear wing opened the door for teams to integrate it with the engine cover.

There were no rules regarding any bodywork between the rear wing and the cockpit of the car, and hence teams exploited it with the use of the T-wing. Its use wasn’t very popular earlier in the season, but eventually it became apparent that a sizable down force advantage was on the offer, and therefore all the teams adopted it.

There was trouble, however with the T-wing on Haas’s car flexing uncontrollably in the corners, and Bottas’ wing failure whose debris caused damage to Max Verstappen’s car. Hence, intense scrutiny has led to them being banned this year, and so cars will be sporting more conventional engine covers.


The third change is with regards to suspension. As the steering wheel turns, a change in the ride height of the car occurs. That change in ride height has now been limited to just 5 mm, when the steering wheel is moved from lock-to-lock.

That said, there are no changes expected in the design of the power units, or the shape of the cars. The limit on the penalty-free use of power units has been reduced though, to 3 power units per season in a bid to reduce costs. It has been an unpopular decision with the teams. With driver penalties handed out like candy last year, it might get worse, especially for Renault and Honda, who bore majority of the brunt of those penalties last year. However, it’s a new year and a new season and nobody knows how much they would have worked over the winter, to make up the deficit.

So, it’s only a few days to go before the excitement of the launch begins. Will there ve changes to the liveries of the cars? Teaser videos for the MCL33 have hints of papaya orange. Red Bull’s video showed a hint of pink, while it’s fairly predictable what Ferrari, and Mercedes will look like. Sauber unveiled an Alfa Romeo sponsored livery when they announced the partnership, so it’s expected to be something similar. Force India have undergone a name change, but will a livery change follow?

How will Toro Rosso fare, with Honda as their new supplier? Honda’s return has been quite embarrassing and they will be keen to change that perception about them. Who will we see on the front row, come Melbourne? If Red Bull carry on where they left off last season, and McLaren also get it right with the engines, we might see a 4-way battle for the championship!

We will get an answer to all these questions, come testing, which commences on 26th February in Barcelona!

-Samin Batra


(Image Sources: Google)

Top 5 rivalries to watch out for in 2018

February is almost here and that means a slew of launches are lined up later in the month. Teams will be launching their new 2018 challengers – the second generation of cars for the new era of aerodynamic regulations which began last year.

Cars are expected to have one major change. For the first time ever, cars will have a safety protection device – the halo. Apart from that, there will be other subtle changes – the shark fins which made an appearance last year will be ditched in favor of a more conventional engine cover. Otherwise, they are expected look pretty much the same as can be seen in a teaser poster by the Renault team:

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Teaser for the 2018 RS18.

We saw how much of an advantage cars gained over the 2016 challengers as the new era was ushered in. Although overtakes went down, it was mesmerizing to watch drivers wrestle with the cars and try to overtake each other; it made for some fabulous racing. A lot of rivalries were ignited and renewed as a result and so in this post, I will be going over the 5 rivalries that will define the 2018 season.

  1. Hamilton v Vettel v Verstappen v Ricciardo (for the world championship)
From top-to-bottom, and left-to-right: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, and Daniel Ricciardo.

This will be the major rivalry to watch out for, and it involves the world championship. 2017 was defined by the much awaited battle between Hamilton and Vettel for the world championship. Vettel provided a strong challenge which ultimately faded away in the latter half of the season. Around that same time, Red Bull returned to winning ways with Max Verstappen taking outright victories in Malaysia and Mexico. The Renault power unit finally looked to have made up some of the deficit to Ferrari and Mercedes. That combined with a strong chassis made Red Bull a strong challenger in the closing stages of the season, and their development curve was impressive – bringing down the deficit in qualifying time from 1.5 seconds in the first few races to around 0.5-0.7 seconds by the end of the season. They can’t be ruled out this year, and therefore their young and highly talented drivers – Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are expected to play a part this year.

Also, don’t rule out Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. Bottas was strong last year in his first season at Mercedes, taking victory in Austria, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Kimi Raikkonen came close to winning in Monaco, and Hungary, while he would have surely won in Malaysia had his car not broken down.

2. Esteban Ocon v Sergio Perez


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Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez.

Esteban Ocon was promoted to Force India ahead of his Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein in 2017. Him being a rookie, with not even a full time season under his belt was expected to play second fiddle to the more experienced Sergio Perez. However, that was not to be and Ocon gave Perez more than a run for his money.  The two collided in Canada, Baku, and Belgium – which proved to be the last straw and they were banned from racing each other.

Their qualifying score read 13-7 in favor of Perez.

That ban was lifted only after the season ended, and while the two drivers appeared to have resolved their differences, their rivalry will be another one to watch out for this year.

3. Nico Hulkenberg v Carlos Sainz

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Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg.

After Jolyon Palmer failed to keep his seat at Renault and Carlos Sainz replaced him at the US GP, the Spaniard was on the pace straight away and provided a trailer for things to come with some scintillating overtakes on the Force Indias at the US GP. The youngster had been loaned to Renault, after impressing at Toro Rosso. He is as highly rated as Max Verstappen. Nico Hulkenberg almost single-handedly took Renault to 6th place last year, but with Carlos Sainz, who out-qualified Daniil Kvyat 10-7 at Toro Rosso and scored the majority of their points, as his teammate Renault can hope to fight higher up the grid. They steadily improved throughout the year, and looked more settled since their return in 2016. This will be a battle which could either make or break them – make because it would be a great opportunity for them to score more points, and  break if it turns out like the rivalry between Ocon and Perez because that rivalry cost Force India a potential victory at Baku in 2017.

4. Kimi Raikkonen v Valtteri Bottas

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Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen.

This is a rivalry which will not be ignited, but renewed. The two Finns have no love lost between them. While both of them played second fiddle to their teammates for majority of the last season, they showcased some of the battles of their own, which mostly resulted in collisions. Remember Russia 2015, or Baku 2017? While these two could figure in the fight for the world title, they certainly won’t back down from a fight of their own.

5. Charles Leclerc v Marcus Ericsson

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Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson.

Charles Leclerc made headlines when he was signed by the newly christened Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team. The Monegasque driver, just 20 years of age, was picked ahead of the more experience driver Antonio Giovinazzi. His performance in the 2017 GP2 season was on another level. He won the championship in his rookie year ( only the fourth driver after Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, to do so). He took 8 pole positions that season. While Sauber received much needed funding from Alfa Romeo, and brand new 2018 spec Ferrari engines, they will move up the midfield, and there will be a battle to watch out for between these two. Ericsson matched his teammate Pascal Wehrlein for many of the qualifying sessions last year, losing 11-8. Ericsson is no pushover, and so this will be another battle to watch out for, because it might open up a seat at Ferrari or another top team.


–Samin Batra


(Image sources: Google search)


Top 5 Most Dominant Formula One cars of all time

Once a new era of regulations kicks in, seldom have we had a level-playing field. There’s always that one team which produces the best car of the grid, and then dominates the season. Such periods of domination have happened at various points of time in the rich history of Formula One.  The cars that helped dominate eventually became a symbol of heritage and proof of what the team had achieved.

In this post, I shall be looking over the years to some of the most dominant cars in F1 history. I will be starting with 9 most dominant cars (cars that won 75% or more races in that season) in history, and narrow down the list to 5 based on their win-ratios.


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Different teams have dominated the sport at different points of time. The teams have been sorted according to win ratio, i.e. the number of races that the car won out of all races in a given season.

Narrowing down to five most dominant cars.

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Proportion of wins of 5 most dominant cars in F1.

1.  McLaren MP4/4 (1988) 

McLaren MP4/4 driven by Ayrton Senna.


In 1988, then McLaren chief Ron Dennis made two masterstroke decisions – he dropped Porsche-TAG as the engine supplier and signed Honda, and he signed Ayrton Senna to partner Alain Prost; two of the best drivers in the world, driving a car powered by the best engine on the grid. The car sometimes out qualified other cars by more than a second.

Non-finishes: 2

Wins: 15 out of 16 races

Drivers’ champion/ Constructors’ champion : Ayrton Senna/ McLaren

 2.  Mercedes W07 (2016)

Mercedes W07 hybrid driven by Lewis Hamilton.

What happens when you get a head start over the rest of the field as a new era of regulations kicks in, and you have dominated the first two years? Under pressure from expectations of another season of domination and staying ahead of their rivals, you do what Mercedes did: they produced possibly the best car of the current hybrid era of engines (2014 on wards).

Non-finishes: 1

Wins: 19 out of 21 races

Drivers’ champion/ Constructors’ champion: Nico Rosberg/ Mercedes


3.  Ferrari F2002 (2002)

Ferrari F2002 driven by Michael Schumacher.

With Ross Brawn as the technical chief, Jean Todt as team principal and Michael Schumacher as the number one driver, Scuderia Ferrari of the 2000s was a dream team. Having ended Mika Hakkinen and McLaren’s domination of the sport in 2000, Ferrari and Schumacher went on to win 5 drivers’ and constructors’ titles in a row. But, it was in 2002 when they produced the most impressive performance of their dominating run; Michael Schumacher won the title by the French GP, with six races to go.

Non-finishes: 3

Wins: 15 out of 17 races

Drivers’ champion/Constructors’ champion: Michael Schumacher/ Ferrari

4. Ferrari 500 (1952)

Ferrari 500

Now, to the early ’50s, when the concept of aerodynamics was in its infancy and cars relied mainly on engines for performance. Some of the most dominant cars ever were produced during that time.

The Ferrari 500 was one of those cars. It was built under Formula 2 regulations. Alberto Ascari won the drivers’ championship that year, driving a Ferrari.

Non-finishes: 4

Wins: 7 out of 8 races

Drivers’ champion: Alberto Ascari

5. Alfa Romeo 158 (1950)

Alfa Romeo 158 at Nurburgring

Another classic. This car was one of the most dominant and successful cars ever made. Giuseppe Farina won the world championship that year, driving an Alfa Romeo.

Non-finishes: 7

Wins: 6 out of 7 races

Drivers’ champion: Giuseppe Farina

(Source of images: Wikipedia)


Samin Batra


The driver dilemma at Williams and why it’s good for the drivers involved.

A year ago, Williams Martini Racing F1 team found themselves looking for a driver to replace then-retired Felipe Massa. However, Nico Rosberg retired, which opened the gates for Valtteri Bottas to replace him at Mercedes, and Massa had to come out of retirement to drive again.

A year on, this time Massa is retired for good, and the coveted seat at Williams is vacant again. Robert Kubica had been in the running for the seat, but was ruled out later. Now, it’s rumored that Sergey Sirotkin or Pascal Wehrlein could take that seat. Doesn’t matter who takes it, it would sure be a step up the ladder for whoever gets the seat – provided they’re coming from a back marker team.

Williams has a rich history. Built from ground up single-handedly by Frank Williams and Patrick Head, it’s now the second most successful British team in Formula One, and was once the most successful, until Ferrari took the record with Schumacher.

The beginning was tough, and Frank Williams struggled for results, and his cars were even considered unlucky because many drivers had been killed driving them, including his close friend Piers Courage. He sold the team to Wolf who then rebranded the team as Wolf racing, ultimately banning Frank Williams from working at the factory.

Frank Williams came back, and founded another team, called Williams Grand Prix Engineering, and hired Patrick Head as the engineer. Together, they set out to conquer the world of Formula One. With class leading engines, and chassis which suited every track, their cars soon became title contenders. Their first victory came with Clay Regazzoni at Silverstone in 1979.

Championship victories soon followed in 1980, and soon Williams was regarded was one of the top 5 teams of F1 – along with Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Benetton.

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Season wise race wins for Williams

The team had some of its most successful years from 1980 to 1996, dominating many seasons, such as 1992, 1993 and 1996. The 1992 Williams car had computer aided traction control which made it the dream car for drivers, like Ayrton Senna. Some of the famous and most successful drivers have raced for the team in the past – Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna – all titans of the 80s.

Race winners for Williams.

Nigel Mansell won the most races for Williams, followed by Damon Hill, whose majority of victories came in 1996 when he won the world championship.

However, post 1997, Williams struggled to find reliable engines. A deal was made at the turn of the millennium to run BMW engines. Victories came, but they were few and scattered over the first half of the decade. They dried up in the latter half, and only one win has come so far in this decade –  Pastor Maldonado’s victory at Barcelona in 2012.

Williams secured a deal for the class leading Mercedes engines in 2014, which led them to second place in the constructors’ standings in 2014. However, they slipped back in the following years due to the resurgence of Ferrari and Red Bull, and finished 5th in 2017.

Something went wrong, they failed to build a good car which struggled mightily at some tracks in 2017, and the Mercedes power was perhaps its only savior. One thing though, Williams have mastered the art of pit stops consistently delivering the fastest pit stops over the past few years. They hired Paddy Lowe last year, and he has been working on the 2018 challenger, and given his credentials there should be some improvements in performance.

There’s no doubt however that the team is capable to win, given its past record at various tracks around the world.

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Wins for Williams at different tracks. Size is proportional to number of wins.

All kinds of tracks are visible in the above image, which means Williams has won at the power hungry circuits, the tight and twisty circuits and some which are a mixture of both.

So, whichever driver gets the seat, he will be privileged to drive the car, and it will be a huge boost for his career – consider where Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas ended up.


–Samin Batra





Formula E and Tesla: Names that should be synonymous but aren’t.

Formula E is the new kid on the block. The kid which now is gaining attention of the established names in motor sports such as, Audi, Jaguar, Porsche and Mercedes – all brands with some racing heritage. It is the battleground, where new technology and advancements happen in the electric car industry, much like what Formula One has been for the automobile industry.

However, there’s a conspicuous absence of one brand. One brand which has redefined the term ‘electric car’. It has brought the luxury, the performance, the safety and the technology into the terms associated with an electric car. That brand is Tesla.

Tesla has brought about tremendous improvements in electric car technology over the past decade, with its Model S, the Model X, the Model 3 and its newly launched line of semi trucks. It’s quite like what Apple did with the smartphones – it has brought in features to its cars which customers didn’t even realize they wanted, or would have found useful. There’s performance. Who would have thought that the fastest ever production car in the world would be an electric car?

Tesla has pioneered the technology behind the success and the performance of electric cars.

Formula E cars are still developing in performance. The drivers have to manage the energy consumption of the cars, they have to swap the cars midway through the race, which is the F1 equivalent of a pit stop. Technology is still developing. Cars are slower than their F1 counterparts, going up to a speed of only 190 km/h.

So, there’s room for much development. This is where Tesla could help the racing series develop. They could bring in the battery swap technology to Formula E, where the driver doesn’t switch the car, he makes a pit stop, and the battery of the car gets swapped in 90 seconds flat. This technology has made its way to Tesla charging stations. Besides, Formula E cars can be made to look sexier than they are today. Aerodynamics could play a part in that, and Tesla is no stranger to that either. Their upcoming Roadster makes good use of aerodynamics, which plays a role in it becoming the fastest accelerating car. They have claimed it’s ‘more aerodynamic than a Bugatti Chiron’.

Unlike F1, where costs are a hindrance to new manufacturers coming in, it’s more open in Formula E, and that is one of the reasons why it’s gaining so much popularity among the big names. Costs are comparatively lower, and regulations are more open.

However, management priorities of Tesla could delay its arrival in Formula E –  if it arrives. They have wait lists for their cars stretching to years. They have to focus on improving their manufacturing capabilities, in order to be able to build a Formula E team. As a matter of fact, Tesla Model S cars are already taking part in an Electric GT series, which was conceived this year only. It’s a series in which identical Model S’s, about 20-30 of them take part in races on renowned tracks around the world, such as Paul Ricard in France.

Meanwhile, as Formula E continues to grow and continues to harbor more and more established names, like Fiat-Chrysler who are talking about entering the Maserati name, a manufacturer like Tesla entering Formula E would not only be the most obvious decision that many people had been expecting, but also as mentioned above, be beneficial to the sport. If Tesla succeeds in it, and beats other top manufacturers, it’s credentials as a manufacturer will be tremendously strengthened. Moreover, Tesla will be at an advantage because they are familiar with the technology.

If not a constructor, Tesla could come in as a supplier to supply customer teams such as Techeetah, and Virgin Racing, which is owned by Richard Branson who recently invested in the Hyperloop, another of Musk’s initiatives, much like what Cosworth was to Formula 1.



Samin Batra


McLaren Honda : Past success doesn’t always guarantee success in the future

One of the sport’s most successful teams, and the second oldest team. With 182 race wins, 12 drivers’ championships and 8 constructors’ titles, McLaren are the second most successful team after Ferrari. They’ve always remained a customer team, getting engines from the most successful and impressive suppliers of their era – Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Porsche, Cosworth, you name it.

In 1988, McLaren signed a deal to get the field leading Honda engines. The result was utter domination. They won 15 of the 16 races of their first season together, in 1988, and also took both drivers’ and constructors’ titles. Three more years of such a dominating run followed, which yielded three more drivers’ and constructors’ titles – the longest such run for the team in its history.

Fast forward to 2014. McLaren are now a customer of Mercedes engines, but are struggling in the new era of hybrid turbo engines. Ron Dennis announces a deal with Honda, bringing the famed manufacturer back to the sport. They drop Mercedes, because they believe they can’t beat the works Merc team while running their engines. They form a ‘works’ team of their own, because they’re an exclusive customer of Honda.

The deal was unique, with Honda investing money as well, to pay their drivers’ salaries.

There was much promise in the partnership, mainly due to the run that McLaren and Honda had, the last time they were in a partnership. They signed the best driver on the grid, Fernando Alonso to drive alongside the experienced driver Jenson Button. The team had all the makings of a world champion team. They unveiled a new livery, and a ‘size zero’ design of the car. With razor sharp edges and the thinnest rear wing that you could see.

The season began with testing, in which they completed the lowest mileage of all, with the car breaking down many times on track. Technical insight into the design revealed flaws. The Honda engine was constrained by the size-zero concept adopted by McLaren. Honda had gone ahead with a radical design, but as the new engines are complex to get right in the first go, they struggled. In a nutshell, the 2015 season was a rough ride.

Non-finishes : 14

Average finishing position : 11th

Race-wise qualifying performance of McLaren Honda in 2015

Coming to 2016

With one tumultuous year behind them, the team toned down their expectations from 2016, by setting a ‘realistic’ target of a podium by the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.

Reliability improved, but the car still lacked straight-line speed, which made it a sitting duck on circuits with fast corners and long straights.

Non-finishes : 10

Average finishing position : 9th


Race-wise qualifying performance of McLaren in 2016.

The delta in qualifying times was huge on tracks such as Monza, Silverstone, Baku, and Sochi which all have long straights. Performance was better at tight tracks like Monaco, and Singapore.


Honda finally realized that they were getting nowhere with a radical design and thus decided to go the conventional way, and adopted a design similar to Mercedes. However, changing the approach didn’t help and their reliability slumped to its worst since the beginning of the partnership.

Non-finishes: 18

Average finishing position: 10th


Race-wise qualifying performance in 2017

Things didn’t improve and the delta was perhaps its biggest during the first part half of the season. There was a little improvement during the second half, but not enough to convince McLaren to keep Honda for another year. McLaren couldn’t have afforded to go into 2018 with Honda. They hadn’t been able to get a title sponsor, and their brand image was also taking a hit.

Honda just weren’t committed to making their F1 program successful. They took F1 as a research project, which would help them develop their hybrid technology. There were numerous missed deadlines for engine upgrades, performance which Alonso termed as embarrassing and had even alleged that the car was running on ‘GP2’ engines during the Japanese GP of 2015. Such was the performance deficit, the car even struggled to overtake with the help of DRS, and other cars managed to overtake it without even needing DRS.

McLaren signed with Renault for 2018, with Honda moving on to supply Toro Rosso and that marked an end to a failed partnership which offered some promise only when it was announced.


— Samin Batra