McLaren-Honda confirm Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button

McLaren have finally announced who will be driving for them in 2015. The signing of Fernando Alonso will come as no surprise but his team-mate has been the subject of speculation for a number of months.

Jenson Button will remain with McLaren for 2015 – his sixth season with the team – with 2014 race driver Kevin Magnussen becoming test and reserve driver.

“I am absolutely delighted to be on the threshold of leading McLaren-Honda to a new era of partnership,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Ron Dennis said. “I speak on behalf of all at McLaren when I say that. I am equally confident that our colleagues at Honda share that determination and passion to win. As regards drivers, 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.”

Button is currently the most experienced driver on the grid with 266 Grand Prix starts under his belt. This includes 15 victories and 50 podiums, of which eight wins were for McLaren and 26 podiums. He won the world championship with Brawn GP back in 2009 before joining McLaren in 2010. He has been somewhat in limbo over the past couple of months, not sure if he had a future in Formula One but has revealed he is excited about what lies ahead with McLaren-Honda, having spent most of his early F1 career driving for Honda (who then became Brawn). “I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together,” Button said. “I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team.” While Alonso has made no secret of his desire to join McLaren-Honda due to his idol Ayrton Senna’s association with the team, it was Alain Prost who inspired Button. “I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren-Honda team-mate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy,” the 2009 world champion admitted. “The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since. 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!”

“Looking forward, I know the Honda guys well, having driven Formula 1 cars powered by their engines from 2003 to 2008,” he continued. “I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them, and promise to give 100% to make their partnership with McLaren a success. Last but far from least, I am very much looking forward to having a driver as fast and as experienced as Fernando as my team-mate. I am sure we will work extremely well together.”

For Alonso, the move to McLaren-Honda is a dream come true. “I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference,” the Spaniard revealed. “I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1 – McLaren-Honda – the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship. I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me.”

Alonso also revealed that McLaren-Honda had approached him more than a year ago. “[They] asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership,” he explained. “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.”

Joining Alonso and Button will be 2014 driver Magnussen, to whom Button, Dennis and Honda’s Senior Managing Officer Yasuhisa Arai paid tribute to. “Kevin has done a great job this season and will continue to be an integral part of our team,” Dennis said. “He will be our test, reserve and third driver, and remains an excellent prospect for the future.” Button expressed his gladness that Magnussen – “a very quick driver and a really nice guy” – would be remaining with the team, while Arai commented on the young Dane’s remarkable growth over last season.

“I can safely say that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team,” Dennis concluded as the team look ahead to 2015 and the start of a new era, laying the foundations for future domination. Back in the late 80s and early 90s – between 1988 and 1992 McLaren-Honda won eight world championships, 44 grands prix, and took 53 pole positions and set 30 fastest laps, all in just 80 grands prix. The team will be striving to return to winning ways. As Alonso stated: “we have time, we have hopes and we have the necessary resources. Let the legend return: that is our challenge!”

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2014: McLaren launch MP4-29

McLaren have kicked off 2014 by becoming the first team to officially launch their new car.

While other teams, such as Williams, Force India and Lotus have revealed rendered images of their cars, McLaren took the covers off the MP4-29 and unveiled it to the world via their website. With formal launches – including press in attendance – looking to be a thing of the past, McLaren uploaded a series of images and videos to their website yesterday afternoon.

The car, which looks strikingly different to its predecessor, features the ‘anteater’ nose and a solid silver livery, which could change between now and the first race in Australia.

As well as the photographs, McLaren uploaded a number of videos to accompany them. The official launch video can be found on this dedicated Launch Video page.

“2014 bring so many changes. It’s the most amount of changes in over two decades of Formula One,” Sporting Director Sam Michael said. “The most significant of all the changes is definitely the Powertrain – you’re coming from a normally aspirated engine to a turbo charged unit. You’re going to a V6 Turbo engine – it’s fuel-flow limited as well, so it means that you don’t just have unlimited amount of fuel to burn. You’ve got 100kg fuel mass for the race.”

“The biggest challenges for us to adapt to the widespread changes on the powertrain and aerodynamics this year are going to result in significant operational changes from recent history in Formula One,” Michael continued. “It’s the biggest change we’ve seen on the engine, the gearbox and even the chassis as well. Just meeting curfew times, getting through the workload of kitting engines and changing engines, gearboxes… Even if you don’t actually have failures, that’s going to be a massive task.”

“There’s going to be a lot of development this year,” race driver Jenson Button said. “I think being with a team like McLaren will be very important because we are good at developing, I think you can see that in previous years. Sometimes you get a little bit wrong, but most of the time they’re very good. It’s going to be a development race through the season, along with trying to get a handle on the reliability of the car.”

“It’s always pretty intense and there has definitely been no let-up for anyone this winter,” Button continued. “I don’t think there’s any team that has found this winter easy. We really don’t know where we will stand at the first race compared to others but we know that we are heads down, doing the best we can.”

Also giving his opinion was new driver Kevin Magnussen, who is looking ahead to his rookie season in Formula One. “The first few months have been really good with McLaren,” he said. “I’ve done lots of work in the simulator with the engineers, learning about the new car and the new regulations, and trying to improve everything before the first test.”

“I’ve come a long way in the winter – the team has been really great, they’ve helped me so much,” he continued. “They’re good at helping me out and helping me understand everything. The car this year is going to behave very differently to the old car – it has a lot more power than last year! It’s very fun to drive, it’s going to be a big challenge and in a way it’s good for me, because it puts everyone on zero again on driving style. I think it will be exciting for the fans!”

All the information, including more videos, pictures and interviews, can be found on the official McLaren website. The MP4-29 will be on track next week at the first test in Jerez.

 

McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 Infographic
Source: McLaren.com

A Review of the Year: F1 – September & October

Part four of a review of the year (2013) in Formula One, following part one (January & February), part two (March, April & May), and part three (June, July & August).

September 2013 

At the start of September, McLaren celebrated their official 50th anniversary. The H Duct posted 50 posts over 50 days, celebrating the team and its achievements and personnel. The team held celebrations at the McLaren Technology Centre and commemorated the occasion at the Italian Grand Prix.

In driver news, Red Bull confirmed the identity of Mark Webber’s replacement. Daniel Ricciardo will make the move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull for 2014. Elsewhere, Force India confirmed that they had signed GP2 driver James Calado as their third driver.

Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso topped the Italian Grand Prix practice sessions. Vettel took pole and another race win.

Felipe Massa took to Twitter to announce that he would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the season. “For next year, I want to find a team that can give me a competitive car to win many more races and challenge for the championship which remains my greatest objective,” he said.

Ferrari followed up Massa’s announcement with the news that Kimi Raikkonen would be returning. The Finn, who returned to Formula One in 2012 after two seasons away, won his world championship with the team in 2007.

The Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore was altered before the race, removing the infamous ‘Singapore Sling’ at Turn 10. The changes lowered the overall lap-times.

Lewis Hamilton topped the first practice session in Singapore but it was Sebastian Vettel who dominated the weekend – topping the remainder of practice, qualifying and winning the race.

Caterham announced a three year contract extension to their Renault deal.

A draft 2014 calendar was posted by the FIA. It included races in Russia, Mexico and New Jersey; including an unprecedented triple header between Monaco, New Jersey and Canada.

Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin made his Formula One debut at a display in Sochi, home of the new Russian Grand Prix.

October 2013

Marussia confirmed that they would be retaining Jules Bianchi for the 2014 season. The rookie driver improved on his debut, regularly out-qualifying and out-racing his team-mate and the Caterham drivers.

Lewis Hamilton topped the first two practice sessions in Korea but Sebastian Vettel took over in Free Practice Three. He then went on to qualify in pole position and win yet another race.

Sauber extended their deal with Ferrari into 2014 and beyond.

Sauber also announced that for practice in Japan, they would have Kimiya Sato as their reserve driver.

Codemasters launched the latest version of their Formula One game – F1 2013. The game features classic content from the 80s and 90s, including the FW207b, Alan Jones and Brands Hatch.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel topped the first two practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix. Mark Webber topped FP3 and took pole position but it was his team-mate, Vettel, who won the race.

Maria de Villota, a former Marussia reserve driver, sadly passed away aged 33. She sustained serious injuries after a testing crash in 2012, and died as a result of them.

Toro Rosso confirmed that Jean-Eric Vergne would remain with the team for 2014 and be partnered by Daniil Kvyat.

1,571 – the number of career points that saw Fernando Alonso become the highest scoring Formula One driver ever.

Sebastian Vettel topped every session in India and stormed to his fourth championship in style.

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Gary Paffett

Gary Paffett has been a full time McLaren test and reserve driver since December 2005. In his time with the team he has completed 67 test days, 4,746 testing laps and over 21,000 testing kilometres. He also drives the team’s simulator, helping to develop the car over the year. Away from Formula One, Paffett competes in DTM and is currently in his tenth season. He was champion in 2005 and has been runner up on a number of occasions, including in 2012.

As with many drivers, Paffett started his racing career in karts. He made his debut in 1991, when he was ten years old, racing in the British Junior Kadet Championship. He finished sixth in his first season, improving to fifth in his second and third in his third. In 1994 he started racing in the British Junior TKM championship, coming second in his first year and winning the championship in 1995. He won another championship in 1996 and swept the board until 2000 – winning everything he entered.

In 1999, after becoming the British Formula Vauxhall Champion, he won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC award (the year after current McLaren driver Jenson Button). This earned him a test with the McLaren Formula One team. He said of the experience: “This was my first test in an F1 car and was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The sheer speed of the cars is something that is impossible to imagine before you get the chance to drive it. I got a day of testing at Jerez in December 2000 and was invited back to a further test at Magny-Cours in January 2001”.

From there he competed in the British and German F3 championships, winning the latter in 2002. In 2003 he made the switch to DTM, driving for Team Rosberg. He finished 11th in his debut year with four points, picked up at the Nurburgring and the A1 Ring (now known as the Red Bull Ring). In 2004 he moved to the HWA team and progressed right up the order to finish second behind Matthias Ekstrom. That year he won four races – Hockenheim, Norisring, an invitational race in Shanghai and Nurburgring. He stayed with the team in 2005 and became champion, ending the year with 13 more points than Ekstrom, with an impressive five out of 11 victories. He took a year out of DTM to concentrate on his McLaren testing duties in 2006 but returned in 2007. A stint with Persson Motorsport in 2007 and 2008 saw Paffett back down the order, but a return to HWA in 2009 instantly saw him finish second again.

He currently lies sixth in the DTM championship as well as continuing his testing duties and simulator driving for McLaren. He recently celebrated his 100th DTM race at Oschersleben, back in early September. Over his career he has claimed 20 wins, 32 podiums and ten pole positions. He is the most successful DTM driver on the current grid, and is the third most successful DTM driver of all time, behind Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig. 75% of his DTM race starts have resulted in points.

Paffett shares his McLaren test driver duties with Oliver Turvey. He also attends Young Driver Tests for the team. He attends races as the team’s reserve driver, and he also stepped into that role for Force India last year at the Australian Grand Prix. There have been times when Paffett has been in attendance at Formula One race weekends and, after Free Pratice on Friday, he has been flown back to the McLaren Technology Centre to work on tweaks and updates for the car. It is a relentless job being a test driver!

 

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Tooned

Last year, the McLaren F1 team joined forces with Framestore to develop Tooned – a cartoon about the adventures of McLaren’s drivers and fictional character Professor M voiced by Alexander Armstrong. The first series focused around Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and their hi-jinks around the McLaren Technology Centre, undermining Professor M at every given opportunity. Series two, which debuted this year, focuses on McLaren’s celebrations for their 50th anniversary, offering an alternative McLaren story.

Tooned is broadcast on Sky Sports F1 (and the first series is also available to buy on DVD) and premiered before the British Grand Prix in July 2012. Ron Dennis said of the series: “Motor racing can come across as quite cold and scientific, and at McLaren we’ve probably been accused of lacking humour in the past. But a lot of humour exists in F1, so this is about putting smiles on people’s faces.” The first series featured cameo roles from the likes of Mika Hakkinen, development driver Nyck de Vries, and Ron Dennis himself. Sergio Perez made a very brief appearance at the end of series one after it was announced that he would be replacing Hamilton at the team. Most episodes also feature the mechanics, who don’t speak but are also integral to the story and witness to the mischief Button and Hamilton get up to.

McLaren Group brand director, John Allert, told Marketing Magazine that Tooned was “an opportunity to stretch the demographic aperture of the brand, to bring it younger, and to also bring a self-effacing humour to a brand that hadn’t been particularly good at laughing at itself.” McLaren followed the Tooned series by launching merchanise in their store as well as the aforementioned DVD of the first series.

Series two has focused around McLaren celebrating their 50th anniversary. The story starts with Professor M hosting a special night with Button and Perez, telling the story of McLaren. However, there is another character on hand (voiced by Brian Cox) to share the ‘real story’. He starts by explaining how Bruce McLaren started the team in a shed and worked with a mechanic and a Kiwi before moving on to the team’s first world champion, Emerson Fittipaldi. While Professor M tells the story of Fittipaldi being known as “the Mouse”, the mysterious Scottish man suggests he was in fact a werewolf. Next up was James Hunt, or ‘Hunt, James Hunt’ national hero, voiced by his son Tom Hunt.

The Tooned series shows a lighter side to McLaren, combining humour and some cases of innuendo with stories from McLaren’s history with a twist.

 

McLaren ’50 in 50′: The McLaren Technology Centre

Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in motorsport, the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), located in Woking, houses the McLaren Group. This includes the McLaren F1 racing team.

Officially opened by the Queen in 2004, the project to build the MTC started in 1998 when Norman Foster’s company, Foster and Partners, were appointed to design and build it. Construction started in 1999 and was finished by 2004. The building was designed with the hopes that the concept would reflect the company’s design and engineering expertise by showcasing technology and innovation. And it is quite something.

Winner of a number of awards, including from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the MTC is big enough to house nine Boeing 747 jumbo jets. Instead, it provides space for the McLaren Group (Racing, Automotive, Electronics to name a few) to come together under one room. There are design studios, laboratories, and research testing, amongst many other facilities. There is also a fitness centre and swimming pool within the building.

In late 2011, McLaren-Mercedes became the first ever carbon-neutral Formula 1 Team. By implementing efficiency-driven measures at the MTC, the team were able to save more than 1500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Their measures included redesigning the car park lighting system and optimising air conditioning. They have also been able to reduce the requirement for cooling towers from seven to two, through the use of their ‘formal’ lake. From an aerial view, the MTC is semi-circular in shape. A full circle is completed by the lake which, while incredibly picturesque, serves an important purpose.

Water from the lake is pumped through to the buildings’ heat exchangers. Cold water is stored in five cooling buffer vessels, and circulated once every 48 hours. There is a 160 metre long waterfall which takes hot water generated by the radiators of the wind tunnel cooling system and cools it. Rainwater from the roof goes directly into the lake along with car-park drainage. 

The large glass wall in front of the lake was developed using McLaren’s technological expertise. It allows natural light into the building. Here lies McLaren’s boulevard which boasts their historic cars, including championship winning models. The boulevard includes Bruce McLaren’s Austin Ulster, the first car he raced, as well as road cars produced by the team. It was here that the MP4-28 was unveiled earlier this year by Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, along with a parade of the historic cars to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Elsewhere the building is organised around 18-metre wide ‘fingers’ with what the team refer to as ‘streets’ between them.

Rare glimpses inside the MTC, through videos produced by the team or photographs from visitors, show that it is a clean, organised, and clinical place. From the outside looking in, the MTC seems to sum up what McLaren are all about.

I like this quote from Ron Dennis, which sums it up:

“Great facilities attract great people. People can only thrive if you provide them with an environment in which they can aspire to be the best”

To celebrate the general release of Rush tomorrow, 50 in 50 will focus on one of the drivers playing a key role in the film, and McLaren’s second champion – James Hunt.