McLaren plays down chances in first half of 2015 season
McLaren has admitted it has a lot of work to do to get back to the front of the grid this year but it is prioritising getting to grips with its new Honda power unit for the first half of the season.
Honda returns to Formula One this year with the ambition of winning the championship, but McLaren chief operating officer Jonathan Neale has tempered expectations until the car is running reliably.
"In terms of 2015 our ambitions are that we continue the momentum in chassis development that we showed in 2014 - we still have some way to go to get back to the front of the grid there," Neale said. "Certainly we need to stabilise the very complex technology we have developed with Honda in the first half of the season and once we have got the platform running and reliable we can start to look at where we are at compared to the rest of the grid and accelerate at that point.
"It's difficult to be very sure about how to answer the question of what our predictions are for 2015. There are a number of established competitors at the front of the grid, who I expect will continue to be very strong starting in 2015. But we expect to be in that mix during the season, racing at the front.
"We have modest aims for the first test, which is to shakedown the technology, make sure both drivers are comfortable in the car and make sure all the systems work properly. We have a huge amount of new technology on this car, we have a new ERS pack with lithium-ion battery technology, new power electronics, a new V6 engine, a new aerodynamic platform, two drivers, all-new hydraulics, a gearbox … there's a lot to shake out."
But Neale said McLaren and Honda have very lofty expectations for the future.
"Both McLaren and Honda have huge ambitions for their Formula One programme. Honda haven't returned with anything other than ambitons to be at the front and win races and championships - that's why we make such good partners.
"But we have to be realistic about the process of getting to that. Honda have had half the amount of time to develop this engine that the other engine manufacturers have had and we McLaren racing are on a recovery of our on-track performance as well. Our first priority is to get this ambitious technical programme stabilised and then to push on into the season and push for race wins."