After weeks of speculation about who will drive for McLaren-Honda in 2015, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were announced to race for the team yesterday with Kevin Magnussen stepping down from the race seat into the reserve driver role.
Alonso rejoins the team he last raced for back in 2007 when he took four wins on his way to third place in the Drivers’ Championship, and ends months of talk about where he will driving in 2015 after announcing his departure from Ferrari.
In an interview with the media, Alonso has stated that he received several offers from teams on the grid but the lure of returning to McLaren was just too strong for him. Alonso stated the following:-
‘Over the past year I have received several offers, some of them really tempting, given the current performance of some of the teams that showed interest. But, more than a year ago, McLaren-Honda contacted me and asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership – a partnership that dominated the Formula 1 scene for so long.
‘McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations, and there is a very solid future, with confidence, ahead.’
Even though Alonso may have received other offers from other teams to secure his services in the sport, he believes that McLaren who approached him a year ago was the best option available for him. It would seem that McLaren-Honda’s objectives, approach and determination to be successful in the sport as quickly as possible have convinced Alonso to rejoin the team again and believes that this will benefit the team and also his career too.
Button has been retained for a sixth season, having joined the team in 2010 after winning the World Drivers’ Championship for Brawn GP the year before, and has the opportunity to reunite with Honda, which took him to his maiden Grand Prix victory back at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. Button stated the following on being retained by McLaren-Honda for 2015:-
‘I am extremely excited to be embarking on my 16th year in Formula 1 and my sixth season for McLaren. Like Fernando, I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together, and I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team.
‘Being a part of new-look McLaren-Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go.’
It is clear for all to see that Button has been retained by McLaren for 2015 and starting his sixteenth season in the sport. Button just like Alonso feels confident that the McLaren-Honda partnership will be successful and that he will be doing everything possible to deliver on the track and deliver the success that they crave.
Button has been given a great opportunity to utilise all of his existing and working relationships and connections with Honda which I believe is still the right decision that McLaren have taken. This will provide both parties with a solid foundation on which to develop and improve on as the partnership goes on into the distant future.
Chairman and CEO of McLaren Ron Dennis was delighted to be able to announce two former World Drivers’ Champions as his driver line-up for 2015. Dennis stated the following:-
‘McLaren’s policy has always been to assemble the strongest line-up possible, and in Fernando and Jenson I firmly believe that is exactly what we have.
‘We signed Fernando a little while ago, but we decided not to announce the fact until we had also re-signed Jenson as his team-mate. For many reasons our negotiations with Jenson took quite a long time, but, now that they have been concluded, we are confident that our collaboration with him will continue to thrive in the future every bit as well as it has in the past.
‘Make no mistake about it, Jenson is 100% committed to McLaren-Honda, to Formula 1, and to winning.’
It is clear for all to see that Dennis is delighted and also very confident to be leading the team during his renewed partnership with McLaren-Honda and that he is confident that both parties will be able to replicate the success of season’s past and be able to fight for victories once again in the distant future.
During McLaren’s history in the sport as Dennis rightly points out, their policy has always been to assemble the strongest line-up possible and he is confident that the line up of Alonso and Button will meet their objectives of achieving success as quickly as possible with Honda over the next few seasons.
It is clear that the speculation in the paddock was correct about Alonso signing for the team starting next season and it has been rumoured that Button only signed for the team on Wednesday night after many weeks of negotiations in order to retain him for next year. Even though it has taken up to three months for McLaren to announce their driver line up after much speculation, rumour and also after much frustration from fans on social media, McLaren have now secured the near future of Button who deserved to be retained after a reasonable performance this season.
Even though I feel sorry for Kevin Magnussen who has been demoted to reserve driver for 2015 after I feel he had a reliable and reasonable rookie season in the sport (and has not done anything wrong), I can understand why McLaren have taken the decision that they have in order to put in their opinion the two strongest drivers in their cars to give them the best chance to achieve the success they need to on the circuit.
However, I do feel that the demotion of Magnussen to the McLaren team’s reserve may have been a pressured decision from Honda behind the scenes who would also want the two strongest drivers on the grid in their cars and also will have wanted to have used their past experience with Button and also his Japanese connections which could prove to be very beneficial for all involved.
And even though I have argued in previous articles on the subject that McLaren retaining Button for at least one season to take advantage of his experience and connections with Honda would have been the right thing to do during their first year together back in partnership with each other. But even though my heart is with Magnussen right now, it is nice to see that McLaren and Honda have given him a role still within the team in order to use his experience in the sport and also the chance to develop further as a driver.
And let us not forget that Mika Hakkinen in the 1990’s did nearly the same thing which was making his Formula One debut in 1991 with Lotus, stayed with the team for another season and then signed a test driver contract with McLaren which proved to be the correct decision for his career after he was promoted to race for the team after Michael Andretti’s departure. And Magnussen could learn a lot by taking a look at the decision that Hakkinen made years ago and it could in time help him regain a race drive back in Formula One.
Overall in conclusion, the news that Alonso and Button have been signed for McLaren for the 2015 season was to be expected by pundits and the fans. On paper, McLaren’s driver line up looks promising, has the potential to deliver and also brings the team the experience and expertise necessary to build a solid foundation that will bring them success on the track. But without the car underneath them, this is the only way both Button and Alonso will achieve this.
Even though I understand why McLaren have undergone this direction with their drivers, you have to pose the question that we are all thinking in our heads right now; has the issues between Dennis and Alonso from 2007 been resolved satisfactorily?
On the surface, all looks to be have resolved between Dennis and Alonso, hence why Alonso is returning to McLaren. But I am wondering how long this facade will last and also will his return to McLaren be the success story that both parties believe that it will be? At this stage, I cannot answer this question but I hope beyond all hope that these issues do not resurface and that it does not affect McLaren, Dennis or Alonso again.
But it is clear that McLaren and Honda have chosen a driver line up that they feel is right for them and believe it will bring the success that both parties want, crave and need to deliver; even if I feel it will be at least 2-3 years before McLaren and Honda reap the rewards expected from each other and also their partnership.