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Coulthard: McLaren goal has to be to win a grand prix in 2015

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McLaren have to be targeting at least one win this season as they start a new partnership with Honda, according to the Formula 1 team’s former driver David Coulthard, and says that if they cannot win races then there is something fundamentally flawed with the team.

The former world champions have not won a race since 2012, and finished 2014 – their last year with Mercedes engines – in fifth place.

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Coulthard, who spent nine seasons at McLaren and is now a television pundit and Red Bull consultant, told Reuters that Honda had the pedigree and the time to prepare for a winning return to Formula 1.

“They have to, as a company that have produced world championship engines and have turbo technology from Indycars, be at least where Renault and Ferrari are. They can’t be worse than that, in my mind’s eye,” said the Scot. “And where Renault were last year was good enough to win three grands prix.”

Jenson Button Fernando Alonso“Of course they won’t be pitching themselves as championship contenders in 2015 but why would you not pitch for race victories if Red Bull can finish second with a Renault that clearly was struggling?”

Mercedes won 16 of the 19 races last year. Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo took the other three.

“It takes time to turn the old supertanker, it doesn’t turn on its nose,” said Coulthard. “But you under-estimate Ron [Dennis] at your peril.

“I think the goal has to be to try and win a grand prix in 2015, not just try and get a podium. Mercedes will probably still be dominant but Red Bull, Ferrari and those teams must be closer and McLaren-Honda have to be in amongst that mix.

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McLaren have restructured their operations, bringing back Spain’s double world champion Fernando Alonso from Ferrari as team mate to 2009 champion Jenson Button.

Alonso had one turbulent season at Woking in 2007 but those differences have been forgotten with McLaren fielding the most experienced pairing in the pitlane.

“Fernando has still got to be regarded as the drivers’ driver,” added Coulthard. “It’s a marriage of convenience rather than pure love – the cuddly pictures don’t fool anyone do they? – but Alonso is a serial winner and McLaren have been.”

“Jenson is a very solid, safe pair of hands and I think its the right thing for JB to still be there… if all of those ingredients can’t make an award-winning cake, there’s something fundamentally wrong somewhere.”