Dennis: This is one of the best McLaren teams we have ever had

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McLaren supremo Ron Dennis has spoken in depth of the plight of his team which is going through one of the most unsuccessful periods of its illustrious history, but nevertheless he remains optimistic and seems he underestimated the huge challenge that the partnership with Honda would be.

When asked by the Independent exactly how tough things were at Woking, Dennis responded, “Well, one of the things that surprises everybody except for myself, because I’ve seen it before, is that we have made steady and measurable progress.And three or four races ago we knew that we would get to Canada and were going to at best plateau, because of the nature of the circuit.”

“But virtually every step that we’ve taken has moved us forward as predicted by the team, and we’re getting very good correlation with our calculations and our on-track performance, which is promising.”

“Our commitment remains to win the world championship. That requires you to have laser focus on each aspect of the car, and everything has got to be the best of the best. Neither Honda nor ourselves expected the challenge to be quite as difficult as it has been. But they started with a clean piece of paper, not just in terms of the engine but also the research and development facilities, which are completely new.”

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“We know this is a very big challenge, but we are making good progress. Honda have made so many engines over the years that I know we will have one of the best, if not the best. But these hybrid powertrains with their energy-recovery systems are very, very complex and it doesn’t matter who drives the cars, it takes you time to master it.”

Honda are a year behind rival engine manufacturers and Dennis points out, “Their mature engines are now relatively well developed because those manufacturers started in 2014 and were allowed to use five, and now in 2015 Honda has to do the same thing as they did but with one engine less. That to me is very unfair. The way to disincentivise any manufacturer is just to make a set of rules like we have.”

With the F1 Strategy Group meeting on the eve of the British Grand Prix, Dennis was quick to question the committee’s role, “I’m shocked at the somewhat cavalier nature of dialogue inside the Strategy Group, especially as we are about to invest all this money.”

“So when this committee decide what I can and can’t have, that is absolutely one thing I am extremely vocal about, anything that’s a rule or regulation that affects my ability to use the company’s facilities to make us more competitive. That tends to be heavily supported by the have-nots. And again, frustrating.”

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“I’ve been involved in 17 world championships personally, and I think I understand what it takes to do it. And when you do participate in some of these Strategy Group meetings there is a phenomenal lack of experience in some of the teams.”

“They bring forward things which I know have been tried not just once and failed but tried seven times and failed. But all you can do is voice your opinion at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum.”

“I get out of bed in the mornings feeling quite militant. The McLaren DNA is strong and I know very well our values. The people who decry the team just don’t understand or have the roots we have. And it’s so hard for people to get their minds round this statement, but right now we have one of the best grand prix teams that we’ve ever had. It’s a cohesive, focused group.”

“It’s shouldering phenomenal pain, and in any situation like this there are people who will come close to cracking so everybody around them has to hold them up and say: Come on, we’re going to do this.”

“At the same time you know as you’re carrying this burden that you’ve just got to convince the sponsors, the investors, everybody you know, to believe in the team, because we are going to do it.”