2014: A New Era for McLaren

Ahead of a brand new season which comes with its own host of technical changes, including the return of turbos and whole new Power Units, McLaren have announced a number of changes to their team as they themselves enter a new era.

They recently launched a moderately redesigned website, removing any reference to Vodafone after the team’s partnership came to an end with the telecommunications company at the end of 2013 after seven seasons together. They had been expected to announce a new title sponsor at their car launch, which takes place online tomorrow, but they have since revealed this will not be the case. They will be going forward without a title sponsor (as yet), something which is mirrored in the previews released of their 2014 merchandise.

2014 will also see the end of another long-standing relationship, as McLaren part ways with Mercedes after a partnership spanning twenty years. Mercedes started providing engines to the team in 1995 and together they have won 77 races, two constructors championships and two drivers championship. McLaren will be returning to Honda, with whom they enjoyed the ‘glory days’ of the late 80s early 90s.

It’s not all ending relationships, however, as McLaren have announced a new partnership with Norton Rose Fulbright, becoming the first partnership of its kind in Formula 1 between a team and a global legal practice. Norton Rose Fulbright will also become global legal advisor to the McLaren Group.

“This is an exciting partnership,” Peter Martyr, global chief executive of Norton Rose Fulbright said. “McLaren Mercedes is a leading brand, as is Norton Rose Fulbright. By becoming a corporate partner and providing worldwide legal services to McLaren Group, we aim to reinforce the importance that we place on our people’s commitment to teamwork and excellence. We have already committed to developing a joint CSR project.”

As well as their new partnership, McLaren have confirmed a renewed partnership with Santander. “Santander and McLaren have formed a long term partnership and together we have set new standards in sports marketing,” Keith Moor, Chief Marketing Officer of Santander, said. “Our decision to renew that relationship is not something that we have taken lightly, but it is based upon a proven track record of achievement and we are pleased to continue to be in partnership with one of the most iconic brands in global sport”.

McLaren have also been looking to the future with the announcement that Stoffel Vandoorne has becoming the team’s official reserve driver for 2014, as well as competing in GP2. Vandoorne, who lost out on the World Series by Renault 3.5 series title to Kevin Magnussen, says that he is “thrilled and honoured” to have been selected to be McLaren’s reserve driver. Both Vandoorne and Magnussen have been part of McLaren’s Young Driver Programme, and towards the end of last season the team announced that they would be replacing Sergio Perez for the upcoming season with Magnussen. Both are young drivers who have shown incredible speed and potential in their careers so far.

Furthermore, there have been changes at the helm of McLaren, with Ron Dennis regaining control after being reinstated as CEO of the McLaren Group. This has led to intense speculation surrounding the future of Martin Whitmarsh, who previously held the role as well as Team Principal. Dennis offered some powerful words on his reinstatement, saying: “There will be changes – we will win again”. The move comes after one of McLaren’s worst seasons in the sport with no wins or podiums and a middling fifth place in the championship. Whether or not Whitmarsh continues as team principal reans to be seen, but with the season just around the corner no doubt McLaren will confirm their structure soon.

McLaren have made some positive strides as they move into the 2014 season with the desire to put 2013 well and truly behind them. After some initial concerns that the team had failed the mandatory crash tests, they seem to be back on track after confirming they had passed all of them and will be on track in Jerez. The world’s eyes will be on the team tomorrow as they become the first team to officially launch their car (Force India and Williams have revealed pictures) before testing commences on Tuesday.

The end of many eras in Brazil

The Brazilian Grand Prix may be the last race of the season, but this year it is far more than just that. Interlagos will play host to the end of many eras. Felipe Massa will race in red for the last time, Mark Webber will bring his Formula One career to an end, and the paddock will bid farewell to Cosworth engines along with the V8. As if that wasn’t enough, McLaren’s long-standing partnership with Vodafone will also draw to a close and reports suggest Formula One will lose its Global and Technology partner LG. It also signals the start of an uncertain period for a number of drivers who have been left in limbo over whether they will be in Formula One next season, or visiting pastures new.

Felipe Massa leaving Ferrari after eight seasons

Felipe Massa joined Ferrari as a test driver in 2003 before being promoted to a race seat in 2006, alongside Michael Schumacher. Since then he has accumulated eleven wins, 36 podiums, 15 pole positions and 14 fastest laps. He became a bit of a Turkey specialist, taking pole position and winning the race three years in a row. He has also won his home race – the Brazilian Grand Prix – on two occasions as well as finishing on the podium two further times. He came close to winning the championship in 2008, but it was not to be int the end. He is second only to Michael Schumacher in terms of races entered for Ferrari. Brazil will be number 139 – meaning Massa is third in the all time list for number of races with one team.  Michael Schumacher managed 181 with Ferrari and David Coulthard reached 150 races for McLaren. He will begin the next chapter of his Formula One career by joining Williams for 2014 and beyond.

Mark Webber retiring from Formula One

Since his Formula One debut in 2002, Mark Webber has become a popular figure in the Formula One paddock. Not one for shying away from saying things as they are, Webber’s frank nature is refreshing in the current world of Formula One. Starting with Minardi, Webber drove for Jaguar before joining Williams, and eventually moving to Red Bull Racing in 2007. Nine wins, 13 poles, 41 podiums and 18 fastest laps make up his Formula One career. The Brazilian Grand Prix will be his 217th race, and his 129th for Red Bull, placing him fifth in the all time list for number of races with one team. He fought right to the last race of the 2010 season for the championship but unfortunately he has never won one. He has, however, been an important part of Red Bull’s rise to the top and part of the highly successful team who have won four constructors championships in a row. He has won at Brazil twice before – in 2009 and 2011. He appeared in the Thursday press conference and said: “I wouldn’t be leaving if there wasn’t things I’m happy to leave behind, and obviously if there’s more positives than negatives then obviously I would stay. But there’s more negatives than positives so, for me it’s something… I want a fresh change, a new chapter in my life basically – I’m ready for that personally and professionally.

Marussia-Cosworth split leading to Cosworth’s departure

Cosworth have been a familiar name in the Formula One paddock for 50 years, supported by Ford for a number of years as they supplied engines up and down the paddock. They have powered cars to 166 victories, the last of these coming in 2003 when Giancarlo Fisichella won the Brazilian Grand Prix for Jordan. After a brief spell away from the sport (2007 – 2009 inclusive), Cosworth returned in 2010 to provide power to the three ‘new’ teams who entered the sport then – the teams now known as Marussia and Caterham, along with HRT who dropped out after 2012. They also provided engines to Williams for 2010 and 2011. For 2013, Cosworth have just one team – Marussia – and they currently lie tenth in the championship, ahead of Caterham (who now use Renault engines) albeit with no points. After Marussia announced that they would be joining in partnership with Ferrari for 2014, when the new 1.6 litre V6 turbocharged hybrid power units come into play, it will mean the Cosworth name leaving Formula One once again.

Last race for Vodafone as McLaren’s title sponsor

Vodafone joined McLaren as title sponsor for the 2007 season, becoming their official Total Communications partners in 2010. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have enjoyed a successful seven seasons together, including one world championship in 2008 when Lewis Hamilton became drivers champion. During their time together, Vodafone McLaren have won 34 races, secured 30 pole positions and 24 fastest laps. Considering the season McLaren have been having, it is unlikely they will win in Brazil, so Vodafone and McLaren’s last victory together will have been at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. The announcement about the split was made before the Australian Grand Prix at the very start of the season. At the time Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “We’re immensely proud that, having been set a number of ambitious challenges by Vodafone back in 2007, together we’ve met or exceeded each and every one.” McLaren will announce their new title sponsor when they launch their new car, early in 2014.

End of V8 era as teams look ahead to V6 in 2014

It will be the end of an engine era at the Brazilian Grand Prix with normally aspirated 2.4 litre V8 engines making their last appearance before they give way to turbocharged 1.6 litre V6 hybrid Power Units in 2014. V8 engines made their debut in 2006, replacing the 3 litre V10 engines that had been around since 1995. In 2007 the FIA froze engine development as part of their cost cutting measures and in 2009 a limit on the amount of engines available to teams and drivers was introduced. Since then, each driver has a limit of eight engines per season, which they can use whenever they want, but with every new engine over the limit comes a ten place grid penalty. The RPM limit has also evolved since 2007 when it was 19,000 RPM, being reduced to 18,000 RPM in 2009. Renault have been the most successful manufacturer in the V8 era, powering two teams (Renault and Red Bull) to five constructors championships (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013) along with two drivers (Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel) to five drivers championships (same years as constructors). Along with that, Renault powered cars have won 59 races, taken 65 pole positions and set 55 fastest laps. Seven manufacturers in total have made engines during the V8 era – Renault, Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda, BMW, Cosworth, and Toyota. Only Cosworth and Toyota are without race winners, Toyota having left the sport in 2o10. In terms of race wins, Renault have most (59 victories) while Mercedes have taken 46 victories, Ferrari 39, Honda and BMW with one apiece. In terms of podiums, Renault also top that list with 95. Ferrari and Mercedes have 83 each,  BMW have 12, Toyota have 11 and Honda have three. Who can add to their tally in the last hurrah in Brazil?

LG end five year partnership with Formula One

It was announced at the end of 2008 that South-Korean based electronics group LG would be joining Formula One as Global and Technology Parners from 2009 onwards. Their logo appears on live timing and  Reports suggest that this relationship will come to an end after the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Iconic Partnerships

Over the years McLaren have been involved with a number of different sponsors, leading to some iconic branding for them. Title sponsors over the years include Yardley, Marlboro, and West. Their most recent, and current, title sponsor is Vodafone, but the team recently announced that that relationship would be coming to an end at the end of the 2013 season.

One of McLaren’s most iconic liveries was on the car from the mid 70s to the mid 90s. When Marlboro joined the team and became title sponsor, the cars ran a red and white livery, which has become as synonymous with McLaren as their orange liveries from the late 60s/early 70s. It also coincided with the successful Honda era (1988 – 1991) when McLaren won four constructors titles in a row, coming second in 1991. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost also won drivers championships for the team during this period.

When Marlboro left the team to join Ferrari, McLaren had a livery and a title change. They became known as West McLaren Mercedes, and changed to a black and white colour scheme. It was this design that McLaren won their last constructors championship to date in 1998, with Mika Hakkinen securing the drivers championship two years in a row. After new tobacco advertising laws were introduced in Europe, McLaren dropped West as a sponsor and ran a season simply named Team McLaren Mercedes in 2006. This was also the time when they changed to their current livery – dropping the white and introducing a largely chrome livery and incorporating red.

McLaren’s longest running partnership is with Hugo Boss, with whom they have been working with since 1981. It is also the longest sports sponsorship of all time. Hugo Boss work with McLaren to provide team-wear. Vodafone became title sponsor of McLaren in 2007, becoming their Official Total Communications Provider in 2010. When Spaniard Fernando Alonso joined the team for 2007, Santander became a Corporate Partner. Other familiar names linked with the McLaren team are AkzoNobel, Hilton HHonors, Johnnie Walker and SAP.

McLaren’s engine partnership with Mercedes started in 1995 and will come to an end at the end of the 2014 season. McLaren will return to Honda engines, with whom they enjoyed considerable success, as mentioned above. The relationship with Mercedes will be investigated in a later post.

Tomorrow’s ’50 in 50′ post will take a look at the overall McLaren Group.

The Vodafone Fanzone: a McLaren fan’s dream

So, as you may or may not remember a couple of weeks ago I attended the Bavaria City Racing event in Dublin, which featured the likes of Jenson Button and Giedo van der Garde and a host of other motorsport. If you’ve forgotten you can re-cap by reading my blog post about it! On the Saturday night before the main event I was at the pre-party and standing in a ridiculously long queue for the toilet when I overheard someone talking about something McLaren related. Obviously, being a huge McLaren fan my ears pricked up and I listened in earnest as they discussed something they had been at during the day to do with the team that involved sitting in one of their cars. This all sounded great to me, but I feared it would be some restricted area that only VIPs could attend. That, or it would be too expensive. And so, you can imagine my delight as they uttered three magical words: “it was free”. I got straight on the case of discovering what it was and was relieved to find out it would also be running on the Sunday. And so, bright and early on the Sunday morning, I set off (with my Lotus fan companion in tow) to find the McLaren zone.

On arrival we were told we had to register in order to be able to partake in any of the activities. This offered the opportunity of signing in with Facebook so that our friends could see what we’d been doing. We were given wristbands with a little chip in them so that we could “check in” at every stand and our scores/times (if applicable) and photographs would be uploaded straight to Facebook – a prime example of social media at use! We were told that the simulator was the most popular attraction so we chose to queue for it first. It was fun and a lot more difficult than I’d imagined. Plus, it was the new layout Silverstone and as I was so accustomed to the previous layout I was over cautious on my warm up lap as I tried to learn all the new corners. When my flying lap came I started off fast – my years of PS2 practice were paying off – and was going well until I got caught out at the new section and had an off – my flying lap was ruined. The steering wheel vibrated as you drove, fighting to get away from you as you turned a corner, or got onto a straight. Plus, being quite short I could only just reach the pedals which made it slightly more difficult. When I got out my legs ached – and did for the rest of the day!

After that we queued to sit in the MP4-21 to get our picture taken. Confusingly, they kept calling it Jenson Button’s 2005 MP4-21 – those were Jenson’s BAR days and the 2005 car was the MP4-20, but we’ll let that go. So, here I am in my McLaren:

We also completed a wheel change which was timed. Our time was a 6.47s – I was quick with bringing the wheel in but my companion got caught out by the tricky wheel gun. I think it is safe to say we won’t be getting calls any time soon from pit crews who require our services. Here we are, ready for action:

One of the other activities was a helmet simulator. Basically, you put either Jenson or Lewis’ helmet on and there was a little screen in the visor. It felt like you were the driver and it took you on a virtual lap of a circuit – it was quite cool. I was determined as we queued that I would get Lewis’ helmet so we strategically ordered ourselves so it happened:

Also on display were Lewis and Jenson’s race overalls. We then left to go and watch the actual displays and during the time we missed Jenson visiting the fanzone, which was a shame! However, much to our delight we discovered at the end of the day that my Lotus fan companion (also my boyfriend – we have a great rivalry) had set the fastest time of the day in the simulator and so would be winning a 2012 McLaren shirt. As you can imagine, he was thrilled… He offered me the shirt and said that the pride was enough. Back in 2011 he gave me a McLaren hoodie for my birthday, and the next race Lewis won. When he gave me the shirt, Lewis won at Canada. Coincidence? I think not. I’m already working on the next one…

All in all we both thoroughly enjoyed it!