After countless clues growing more and more obvious as launch day drew closer, McLaren somewhat spoilt the surprise for the moment that they finally revealed a primarily orange MCL32. Despite many being sceptical of the livery, I’m a fan. Call it a Spyker, Arrows or Marussia, it’s a flash of colour on the 2017 grid and that should be welcomed.
McLaren will hope the new look can brighten up the mood at Woking following several seasons of woe. The once great team enter a critical season in 2017. They missed a trick at the last regulation change and need to be quick out of the blocks this time to avoid a repeat performance.
Don’t bet against this kind of McLaren resurgence this season. This is a new look team for 2017 and here’s why.
Firstly, the livery change is more significant than McLaren simply finding several tins of orange paint in the back room. It is a sign of the era of “de-Ronification” that has commenced at Woking.
Ron Dennis had been Mr McLaren for decades, prior to his departure from the top office at Woking in late 2016. He constructed the modern McLaren, with it’s clinical approach and incredible attention to detail. Chrome matched the Dennis blueprint. You always got the sense that a ‘no thrills’ livery was always his preferred direction from the paintshop.
Orange may only be a colour – an unpopular one according to today’s slightly surprising reaction on social media – but it signifies a change in McLaren’s brand identity. If fielding an orange car makes a title sponsor easier to secure, then it’s a great business decision.
Securing a title sponsor is undoubtedly easier when a charismatic driver pairing come as part of the package. In this sense, Jenson Button’s diminished role at McLaren is admittedly costly, yet Stoffel Vandoorne’s subsequent entrance presents McLaren with a huge opportunity in a sporting sense.
The Belgian is the most exciting rookie to enter the sport since Lewis Hamilton. That may seem like a bold statement, but Vandoorne’s maturity and consistency shown in the junior categories more than justifies this. Alongside Fernando Alonso this season, Vandoorne is well placed to develop into a future championship contender, be it at McLaren or elsewhere.
The team will be determined to ensure that Vandoorne’s first championship title comes while at McLaren. Despite their challenging period of late, 2017 has presented the design team with a fantastic opportunity to radically alter their place in the pecking order.
While the chassis has been far from a Mercedes-beater since the beginning of the Honda partnership, the powertrains have unquestionably delayed the squad’s progress. The Japanese manufacturer struggled to recover from being a year behind the competition in the V6 Hybrid development race and despite having a more competitive 2016, they were still behind the curve.
While it will not serve to reset the powertrain pecking order, 2017’s regulations will allow McLaren’s aero design team to have a bigger influence on performance. Alonso and Vandoorne can now enjoy the fruits of Peter Prodomou’s stunning front wing designs and Honda will face far less development-inhibiting pressure.
McLaren is a new team in 2017. The livery reflects the changes and I would not bet against a return to a podium for the team this season. Who knows, they may even make it back to the top step.
Let’s see if the MCL32 is as fast as that front wing looks…