(Photo: REUTERS/Juan Medina)
Our look at how the driver battles in each team are shaping up continues as we focus on McLaren. After a torrid few seasons, could this be the year that the team finally gets another taste of success?
After piling much of the blame for the poor performances of seasons gone by at the door of their former engine suppliers, the team from Woking no longer have that excuse to hide behind. The switch from Honda to Renault was expected to be the catalyst for a new era, so how are the team faring in 2018?
Well, this time last year, they had yet to score a single point. Now, they already have 40 points to their name, their best start since 2014. Based on that one statistic, it is beyond question the team have made a massive stride forward.
The next target will be to secure their first podium since Jenson Button’s third place achieved in Melbourne four years ago. Button also sealed their last F1 win which came in Brazil way back in 2012.
But in terms of the team dynamic, how has that improvement manifested within the garage?
Alonso 5 – 0 Vandoorne
Alonso 32 – 08 Vandoorne
As things stand, most of the team’s improvement can be attributed to Fernando Alonso. He has earned 32 of their 40 points and has out-qualified his teammate in every race. The Spaniard is a two-time former world champions and widely regarded as one of the best drivers on the planet, so occupying the other space in the garage is a challenge.
The remarkable aspect of Alonso’s performances so far has been how he has converted mediocre qualifying positions into race points. Over the five races so far, he has gained 24 places between the end of qualifying and the chequered flag.
As long as Fernando Alonso’s results are a barometer of Vandoorne’s performance, the Belgian driver will always appear inferior. But when analysed free of that context, his data makes more impressive reading.
Like Alonso, Vandoorne has converted lame qualifying runs into decent race results. He has gained 17 places from where he qualified to where he finished across the five races so far and has finished in the points on three occasions. The last time any McLaren driver (except for Alonso this year) finished in the points in three of their first four races of the season was Button back in 2013.
With a reliable car in their hands and two drivers who are both making the most of their racing abilities, McLaren must now look to sharpen up their qualifying displays. The upgrades they brought to Spain seemed to do just that, with Alonso making Q3 for the first time this season and Vandoorne missing out by just one place.
If they can both squeeze into the top ten regularly, there is little doubt these two drivers will continue to gain ground during the race. Teams that can do that invariably end up on the podium during the season. And that scenario no longer feels like a distant dream for McLaren.
Can McLaren reach the podium this year? Is Vandoorne the perfect foil for Alonso? Share your opinion below!