Could 2014 Be Their Year?
McLaren are still confident of making a title challenge for the 2014 season, despite abandoning the development programme for the existing MP4-28, after enduring another frustrating performance at the Korean Grand Prix.
Despite taking further upgrades to the race weekend in Korea, both drivers struggled to maximise the improvements in performance, as Jenson Button finished a lowly 8th and team-mate Sergio Perez scored the final point in 10th place.
Perez had been in contention for a higher points finish in the race, before a flat-spot and a subsequent tyre failure confined the Mexican to a solitary point.
The poor performances during the last 14 races have seen McLaren slip from title contenders at the end of 2012 to outsiders in the battle for points finishes this season.
The recent run of results have left McLaren struggling to compete for consistent top ten finishes with rivals Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso all closing the deficit in the constructors title race.
Since the start of the 2013 season, the team have also struggled to find the necessary pace and consistency to compete with the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes Benz, Ferrari or Lotus, as a result the team have failed to secure a single race victory or podium finish for the first time since 2006.
A fifth place finish for Jenson Button in China has been the team’s highest finish so far this year, with further progression being restricted by overall pace and consistency during races.
Sluggish development at the end of last season and further failures to improve performance have largely been blamed for McLaren’s current decline in fortunes this year, with further questions being raised about their potential next season.
After a disappointing campaign which has seen the team score just 81 points in the last 14 races, McLaren will now turn their attention to the development programme for the new 2014 regulations, which will see the return of smaller capacity turbo engines.
McLaren will undoubtedly be one of the teams with a point to prove in 2014 and the early development for the new car could prove to be crucial if the team are looking to achieve a strong start next season.
If the team are going to be genuine title challengers during F1’s new turbo era, they will also need to learn from the mistakes of 2013 and identify any weaknesses in the car’s design before the performance becomes affected.
The difference next year will be that every team will have to make the transition from naturally aspirated to forced induction, which could lead to contrasting levels of success in the opening races.
Every team will be entering the unknown for the 2014 season, meaning that development over the winter break is going to be crucial for improved results with the turbo engines.
Reliability will be another key issue for the teams during testing and McLaren in particular, will be hoping for greater consistency, particularly as the teams could still face an extended calendar.
While there are still five pivotal races remaining in the current F1 season, the focus for the teams must now turn to the development and investment for 2014, for McLaren it will simply mean getting back to winning ways.
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