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F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

hese are In­ter­est­ing times for both Fer­nando Alonso and his new team, McLaren. I guess the last time 12 en­gi­neers were laid off in one day – as they were at McLaren in De­cem­ber – was prob­a­bly when Ed­die Jor­dan was sell­ing up back in 2004. Not even Fer­rari, at their scape­goat­ing worst, have been so steely. Hence the per­vad­ing at­mos­phere of fear down at the MTC this win­ter. Who will be next? What did the 12 do wrong? I gather that the mantra at Wok­ing at present is that tal­ent is more im­por­tant than ex­pe­ri­ence. In­ter­est­ing, as I say.

It’s also in­trigu­ing to see the peren­nial Ekrem Sami – a sort of Adrian Newey of spon­sor­ship pro­cure­ment – now work­ing along­side Martin Reiss, an Eric Boul­lier com­mer­cial man from Lo­tus F1. This reects McLaren’s on­go­ing search for 2010-13 mar­ket-value ti­tle spon­sor­ship, and un­der­lines the changes tak­ing place in the team. This power strug­gle will reect the one in the garage, where Fer­nando’s Fer­rari en­gi­neer, An­drea Stella, will now rub shoul­ders with the likes of Phil Prew. And there are the mat­ters of Honda Power and Alonso Pres­ence – mini earth­quakes in their own right, but in 2015 just parts of a heav­ing con­glom­er­ate.

So what can Fer­nando ex­pect? The per­son­nel count be­hind the Honda en­gine pro­gramme is cur­rently rel­a­tively small (much smaller than he would have seen at Fer­rari) and he’ll be sur­prised that Honda have cho­sen Mil­ton Keynes as their UK base and not some­where closer to McLaren. The Abu Dhabi 2014 test en­gine hadn’t run with the ERS in­stalled prior to those abortive rst days, so one prob­lem fol­lowed an­other.

The car was de­signed by for­mer Red Bull man Pete Pro­dro­mou, but only to a point: it’s his front wing, but the chas­sis was signed off by Tim Goss be­fore Pete could start the real work. An­other neat irony, given Ron Den­nis’s dis­dain for the Toy­ota F1 team: McLaren will keep us­ing the Toy­ota wind­tun­nel in Cologne for aero tests.

Fer­nando will just do his thing. He won’t try to change the method­ol­ogy of McLaren or Honda, but you will see him ex­tract­ing 100 per cent from the car at any given mo­ment. He will take the short-term view: if it doesn’t work out he’ll be off to a quicker car for 2016; if there’s lots of pace and lots of prom­ise then he’ll stay. He’s for­tu­nate, af­ter all, to have a McLaren-Honda to drive: gazumped by Vet­tel at Fer­rari, re­jected by Red Bull, Fer­nando was for a few weeks ac­tu­ally look­ing at tem­po­rary re­tire­ment. He wouldn’t have wanted to re­turn to Wok­ing on Ron’s terms but it’s done now.

Maybe, mag­i­cally, the new car will be a Merc out of the box…

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