June 24th, 2014 (F1Plus/Jael Arias) -. It has been two years now that McLaren has been suffering one of the worst crises of their history in F1. Ron Dennis himself had to come back to take charge of a brand that is part of his DNA.
Next year Honda reunites with McLaren to try to emulate one of the most successful partnerships in the history of motorsports.
But the key signing of this new venture may not be the Japanese engine manufacturer. It might come from an engineer born in England and who has been instrumental in the recent Red Bull dynasty.
Not so fast...
Next season a new order starts for McLaren. Honda will motorize McLaren again evoking a glorious era of motor racing when Senna landed in Woking in 1988, taking over F1 in the most dominant season that any team has had so far.
Dennis has returned to personally direct this partnership and ensure that it meets the expectations. But we’ll hardly see results in the short term.
Except for Brawn GP in 2009 and in very special circumstances, the champions in Formula 1 are often forged over the work of years.
Ferrari at the beginning of the past decade, Williams in the 90s, Red Bull in the present decade and Mercedes itself in the current season, have forged their dominance in the continued effort of years.
And in an F1 obsessed with extreme cost reduction which has resulted in an excessive decrease of track time, it seems even more complex to achieve excellence in the short term.
If having the most powerful unit in F1 which has led midfield teams like Force India and Williams to fight for the podium on a regular basis this season, has not taken McLaren to the place they belong, Honda landing in Woking is not going to work the miracle.
McLaren-Mercedes partnership is one of the oldest in F1. Both brands know each other perfectly and even the close technical relationship between them has not helped McLaren to recover from a 2013 season when didn’t get a single podium.
Honda’s return to F1 is definitely great news. They have the potential to do well, but they need to find a good chassis for their power unit. And McLaren as it is right now is far from providing this to the Japanese brand.
But not all is said...
We might see a turn of events with this chassis issue.
In Woking they are aware of this weakness and have decided to bring back one of the greatest talents F1 has in aerodynamics, someone who already knows the house: Peter Prodromou.
Prodromou has a past with McLaren. He first came to Woking in 1991 and was assigned the task of introducing the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), and in 2000 he was promoted to Head of Aerodynamics working closely with Adrian Newey.
Rather than the Honda reunion, this is the key figure for McLaren next season.
Of course, if the Japanese bring a compact and competitive power unit it would be very helpful. The standard set by Mercedes will not be easy to match, considering they’ve been away from the sport for more than 5 years.
But Prodromou’s role in managing the integration of this component with the chassis will be critical to delineate McLaren’s recovery strategy.
There have been talks of signing a top driver. Vettel and Alonso's names have emerged in interviews with Dennis as possible candidates to drive for McLaren next year. Going to Woking is a high risk for both.
Alonso has already lost golden years at Ferrari. James Allison has all the power for next year and it would be wiser to give an opportunity to the genius who made Lotus consistently fight for the podium in 2012 and 2013 even with the difficult financial situation.
Vettel has not found himself this year at Red Bull. His prestige is dropping every race with a Ricciardo that is driving smoothly the RB10.
Having achieved historic marks with the Austrian team, contributing to McLaren’s return to the top might be an exciting challenge for Sebastian.
To stay in a Red Bull that has the worst power unit in F1 is something that Vettel must seriously think about. Even more when Newey is stepping back of its senior role in the Milton Keynes’ based squad.
But the key to the British team remains Peter Prodromou. With a Ron Dennis in total control of sport management and an Eric Boullier with a full season in the team, the missing element in this McLaren-Honda equation is the English engineer.
McLaren fighting for the title in 2015 would be more than a miracle. But what is left of this season is very important in walking towards the roadmap to their recovery and into making this miracle attainable.