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Take five - McLaren's potential fightback // With Dennis and Boullier on board, what can the team achieve?

Published by Christine

Pocket F1 Handbook 2014

If you're preparing for the upcoming season, you might find a copy of the Pocket F1 Handbook: Guide to the 2014 Grand Prix Season handy. It contains all you need to know about new and returning drivers, the epic changes in regulations, plus teams participating and the circuits we'll attend. There's also a top ten list of things to look forward to as the season unfolds, and to celebrate the impending F1 return, I've got five of the items right here. The first of the five is all about one team's attempts to turn their fortunes around.

McLaren endured a very difficult season in 2013. Although the results on paper show they score points often, and fought well in both qualifying and the race, it certainly wasn't the season the team were looking for. They finished the year fifth in the championship, which is their worst performance (if you discount the disqualification from 2007) since 2004. Almost a decade of finishing third or better in the title fight meant 2013 was a big disappointment.

Never fear, though. McLaren are known for their ability to bounce back, whether it is to catch up performance during a season, or overhaul their own procedures in an effort to start afresh. 2014 is turning out to be a significant year of change for the Woking team, as they look to improve on fifth place.

Swapping Sergio Pérez for Kevin Magnussen was the first part of the puzzle, and it was soon followed by the surprising, if not totally out of the blue, confirmation that Ron Dennis would be taking a firmer hand in control of the team. The reshuffle at the managerial end of things matches that on the driver side. An old hand with plenty of experience hopes to guide the team, with some fresh blood coming in to continue the progress.

Éric Boullier has switched from Lotus to McLaren, having successfully led the Enstone team from the doldrums of a post-race-fixing scandal to a secure race-winning, championship competitor. Dennis will no doubt be hoping he can do the same at McLaren, although his new role puts him as a racing director rather than the team principal.

Boullier settles into his new role at McLaren
Credit: McLaren Mercedes

The incoming employee, just as with the rookie driver, has swiftly replaced the previous incumbent. Pérez made a swift exit from the team at the end of 2013, whilst Martin Whitmarsh was removed from his position as CEO and subsequently never seen again. Whether they will replace the specific team principal role or not remains to be seen, but it's fair to say there are some good names and faces at the helm of McLaren.

What are their chances for 2014 then? They've got a decent driver line-up and a strong engineering/management team. More than all of that, however, they've got the Mercedes engine. Potentially the weakest link of the Mercedes customers, due to their impending switch to Honda in 2015, McLaren still have the benefits that come from running what has shown to be the most reliable and perhaps fastest of the new power units. Not perfect, by any stretch, but the Mercedes engine has delivered far more in pre-season testing whether others have failed.

The signs are good for McLaren, but what they may find counting against them this season is just how competitive a field it's going to be. There are a lot of lessons to be learned early in the season, and past performance would suggest the Woking team can get their head around new developments very quickly. The level playing field of 2014 gives them every opportunity to get back to fighting for third, second and maybe even the championship itself.

All content in the series Five things to look forward to in 2014