McLaren entered Formula 1 at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix, and despite their lack of manufacture base they became one of the most successful teams in the sport. They claimed their first Drivers' and Constructors' championships in 1974 behind Emerson Fittipaldi, two years later they gave James Hunt the car he needed to claim a Drivers' championship. In the mid 80's to early 90's they were utterly dominant, claiming 7 Drivers' titles and 6 Constructors championships in an 8 year span thanks to Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna. In the late 90's they were on top again with Mika Hakkinen. In the 2000's they introduced Kimi Raikkonen to F1 fans and Lewis Hamilton won his first title in 2008 with them.
However, that 2008 championship was the last time McLaren won a title, and they haven't come close since. In 2014 their partnership with Mercedes ended and they got into bed with Honda once again, who had provided the power for the team in the 80's. This time the partnership was a failure from the very start. The Honda power units were massively unreliable and extremely down on power. McLaren went backwards and in 2017 they finished 9th in the Constructors title. For the 2018 season they are using Renault power units, but McLaren have a long, arduous, climb if they want to get back to the pinnacle of F1. Can you guide them to the front?
McLaren have perhaps the highest expectations of all the middle- to lower-tier teams. While the big three of Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull rightfully expect wins and podiums, McLaren expect you to "Fight And Win". What does that mean? Well, it means you should be consistently pushing McLaren up the grid and toward the podium, which is no easy task.
McLaren start career mode buried in the middle of the grid. In overall performance they are behind the likes of Renault, Haas, and Force India. This means you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to meet these expectations. McLaren are not a team for the lighthearted in F1 2018, if you want an easy ride then pick one of the big three teams, if you want lower expectations than head to Sauber or Toro Rosso. McLaren want another Ayrton Senna, another Lewis Hamilton. Is that you?
If you think it is, then you will have to get to work straight away with the research & development tree. These trees are unique to each team in F1 2018, and covered in a "fog of war" that hides the quickest paths to major and ultimate upgrades that will significantly improve the performance.
Within McLaren's 7th overall performance rating there are some real headaches for anyone trying to win a title with McLaren. Despite the switch to Renault's power unit they are 9th of 10 teams in powertrain performance. The chassis, normally a McLaren strength, is hardly any better and ranks 8th. The only part of the McLaren package that performs well is the Aerodynamics, which comes in 5th.
Fortunately, you start with a healthy 1,800 resource points at McLaren, and that gives you enough to immediately purchase an efficiency and quality control booster in one department, and then the first upgrade in the powertrain department after you complete some practice programs in Australia.
You should focus your efforts in the powertrain to start with. That major upgrade can be in place by time you are into the heart of the European season and sit you in good stead for the trips to France, Austria, and Britain where power is all important, then you can get to work with the chassis.
While McLaren does ok in the aero department you shouldn't ignore it, particularly when you get to the back end of the season and places like Suzuka and Singapore where aerodynamic efficiency is vital to overall performance.
The McLaren R&D tree is not particularly linear. Even the aero department, which splits at the top, comes back together in multiple places. There is no quick route to ultimate upgrades, making expert planning very difficult, but if you keep plugging away with the practice programs then you can eventually push McLaren back to the front of the grid.
The future at McLaren is hard work, and a lot of it. The initial lack of power and chassis balance make the early races really tough. Australia requires good change of direction, Bahrain, China, and Azerbaijan are power-hungry circuits, and then we get to Monaco which is almost impossible without a good chassis and aero package. It's a long road back to the top of the grid, but you can make good gains in F1 2018 career mode if you are willing to put in the time with practice programs.
This is a good thing though. Not only do you get to restore the good name of McLaren and put them on the path to championships again, but you get a lot of satisfaction from doing it. Picking up any win in season 1 will be a remarkable achievement. You can get on the podium in the second half of season 2 if you really focus and work hard, but McLaren is not a team for the faint of heart.