At this past weekends Russian GP at the Sochi Autodrom had a lot of action. Max Verstappen starting from the back row, Hamilton starting 4th, Lando Norris on Pole for the first time of his career, but the one thing that stood out for me, and that is how far McLaren has come in the last 8 years.
As a McLaren fan first and foremost the history is amazing. Amazing drivers and teams championships spanning decades, discovering champions like Lewis Hamilton. Their success is well documented, but the past 5 seasons has seen McLaren at the very bottom of the grid. With an unreliable engine manufacturer causing dbf’s in so many races, to legendary driver Fernando Alonso describing the the car as “a GP2 engine” highlighting the cars struggle in 2015. It was bad, every GP weekend was uneventful as a McLaren fan, you found yourself cheering on former drivers still in the field. For me it was Lewis Hamilton, the man responsible for my love of Formula 1.
But this season has shown me one thing, the team back at the factory is now set up to develop a car capable of fighting at the front for not just Top 10 finishes, not just podium finishes but Grand Prix victories as proven by Daniel Riccardo at Monza a few weeks back. Not just a victory but a 1-2 finish, the first for McLaren in 11 years. And also the 1st 1-2 finish of the season, which when you look at the so called “dominant” teams, its an amazing achievement.
This season has been fantastic for McLaren. Not just because they got there first win in so many years, but the season as a whole has been a strong one. Aside from the slow start from new driver Daniel Riccardo, Lando Norris is fighting fr 3rd place in the drivers championship and as a whole the team is competing for 3rd in the teams championship. McLaren as a team have already eclipsed their 2020 season points tally and there is still 7 races to go, and the form both drivers are in especially since the return of the summer break.
This past weekend at Sochi, McLaren was yet again on track to win a Grand Prix race with Lando Norris qualifying on pole for the race and Daniel starting from 5th. Lando got off to a good start although he was passed by former McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz. He managed to grab the lead back and hold onto it for the majority of the race……Until the rain came.
Both he and Lewis lead the field by not coming in for the intermediate tyres as the rain began to fall, while other drivers including Max Verstappen pitted for the inters as the rain continued to fall, both Lando and Lewis continued for a few more laps before Lewis made the decision that would turn out to be a race winning play. Lando unfortunately chose to stay out one more lap and that would prove costly. Lando ran wide letting Lewis pass him and the resulting pit stop would see him drop to a seventh place finish.
Heartbreaking moment for not just Lando, taking away his first win, but for McLaren. A potential back to back wins situation gone. But my respect has to go to Lando for the way he handled it post race. Congratulating Lewis Hamilton on his record breaking 100th win in Formula 1, and feat I don’t think we will ever see beaten.
I feel that if we had 1 more season with the current regulations we would be a real chance of winning the Drivers championship with either driver (most likely Lando though) and a great chance of winning the Constructors championship. But even with the 2022 car coming in to the grid next season, with the team back at the factory seemingly on fire with developments and upgrades I still think McLaren will be one of the teams to watch with the new regulations, possibly even passing RedBull and challenging Mercedes.
I asked fellow McLaren fans for there opinions on the future for McLaren, here’s what 2 of them said: “I’m so excited that new regulations are going to mix everything up. I’m also terrified about how new regulations will mix everything up!”- Adam Kelly via Facebook and “McLaren’s future is very bright. McLaren is 100% set for success and thrilled to be going along for the ride”- Donna Crosthwaite. So morale is high within the fanbase for McLaren. Here’s hoping that in 2022 the team is back fighting for Championships again where they belong.