Season Preview: McLaren

The only way that McLaren’s 2012 season can be described is disappointing. For a large part of the season the team had the best car and the most in-form driver on the grid, but a series of team errors and mechanical failures meant they lost out on both championships.

A season in which they underachieved was compounded by the loss of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes. With the quick but inexperienced Sergio Perez joining Jenson Button, who has assumed the role of team leader, how much of an impact that has on McLaren’s hopes for the new season remains to be seen.

For the first two pre-season tests the new MP4-28 looked like being quicker than any other car on the circuit, but the team has had problems with pace over longer runs and with that being the area that wins races, it looks as though McLaren may be struggling compared to the rivals.

However, if there’s a team that has proven in the past that they can develop a car quickly and force its way back into the hunt, it is McLaren, and as a team that is as hungry for success as anyone, it would be incredibly foolish to write them off at this stage.

5) Jenson Button

This season is a crucial one for Jenson Button. It is the first time in the 2009 world champion’s four-year association with McLaren that he will be the de facto team leader at the Woking outfit, and after a disappointing 2012 by his standards, he will be eager to fight back this year.

Despite winning the season opener in 2012, Button was plagued with tyre problems in the early part of the year, and it was only towards the latter part of the season that the Briton rediscovered his old form.

When Button and his car are at one with each other, there is arguably no-one better than him on the grid, but he has often struggled to perform when the car hasn’t been to his liking, and with the field being so close at the moment, it is something the Englishman will have to sort out if he is to win a second world title this year.

6) Sergio Perez

For the first two thirds of last season, Sergio Perez was one of the stand-out performers on the grid. The Mexican used his expertise at managing his Sauber’s tyres to record some outstanding finishes, with podiums in Canada and Monza as well as an incredible second place in Malaysia in which he pushed Fernando Alonso all the way for the win, and he rightly caught the attention of the leading teams.

But then he was announced as a McLaren driver, at which point Perez’s form dropped off quite dramatically, with the 22-year-old failing to even score a point in the final six races. Whilst some of that could be attributed to the Sauber going backwards towards the end of the year, Perez showed a reckless side to him that hadn’t shown in the early part of the year.

It all means that no-one knows what to expect from Perez this season. He has the potential to shine, but whether he has the mentality to cope with the pressure of being in a top team remains to be seen.

Hopes for the season
The aim for McLaren this year is simple, to win both championships. For a team of McLaren’s stature, it is incredible to think that they have only won one drivers’ championship in 13 years and are still seeking their first constructors’ crown since 1998.

That is a statistic that McLaren are itching to put right, and for a team that are always up there fighting for wins, it is hard to imagine that barren run going on for too much longer.

Although the team will be optimistic of challenging once again, how much the car’s long run pace will affect those hopes in the early part of the season remains to be seen. However, it would be stupid to bet against the team sorting out any issues with their new car and you can guarantee they will be up there fighting before too long.

Stephen D’Albiac

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