Inside Line: McLaren Nissan, Arrow McLaren… what about the F1 team?

nissan mclaren Formula E

I am writing this as a lifelong McLaren fan in the wake of news that broke today confirming My Team and Nissan concluded a deal to tackle Formula E together from the next season, taking over Mercedes’ electric racing project to do so.

McLaren boss Zak Brown said in the team’s press release today: “As we are shaping the team for its first season as McLaren in Formula E, we are naturally seeking the best partnerships and opportunities on every front – with the technical aspect being one of the key areas.

“Nissan have proven their knowledge, craft and commitment over the last four seasons in Formula E, and heading into the Gen3 era, we have full confidence that the collaboration will bring both parties much success.

“This will be a true partnership that will drive both the team’s performance and the development of the Nissan Formula E powertrain technology,” concluded Brown.

Firstly, McLaren-Honda has a great ring to it; McLaren-Nissan does not. But that’s not the issue as this project is part of an ever-expanding racing programme that the Brown-led outfit has embarked on in recent years.

Are McLaren spreading themselves too far with too many racing programmes?

mclaren arrow

Arrow McLaren is a hearty effort at cracking IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. Now Formula E joins that roster along with the myriad of GT racing series they are involved in either as a semi-works effort or a customer-supported effort.

Extreme E is also being tackled by McLaren currently, while there is also talk of a WEC Hypercar effort in the coming years. Which is mighty impressive.

Impressive indeed if the Formula 1 programme was not up Shit-Street as it appears to be now, and despite that, Brown would rather be at Indy than Monaco this year. Would Toto Wolff or Christian Horner miss a Grand Prix to attend a lesser series they partook in, at the expense of the F1 operation?

I think not, and while Brown has the more than capable Andreas Seidl running the F1 show, I would imagine the Big Boss would be on the frontline, leading the charge, enabling Seidl and his men to do their thing, especially at Monaco of all places.

Granted, McLaren did well at Indy this year, and might have won it with Pato O’Ward second and Felix Rosenqvist fourth. Brown was happy, and made lots of noises from signing Colton Herta, sorting out the Pato O’Ward mess, trash-talking Monaco…etc.

Lando Norris was sixth and off-form Daniel Ricciardo 12th at Monaco this year; disappointing considering that for the first few races of the season, McLaren fans dared believe they would be the ‘third-force’ this year, not quite up with Red Bull and Ferrari but between them and off-kilter Mercedes.

We even got a podium with Lando at Imola. It was good news but since then it has not been pleasant viewing for us McLaren aficionados. While their rivals have taken steps forward with their packages, McLaren have plodded, and what started as a grand old season is turning to an underwhelming one, concerning in fact.

McLaren fans crave a return to our F1 serial-winning ways, other series don’t matter until then

Believe me, if we were scoring podiums (even wins we wish!) with Lando and Dan, this question would not be asked. But the freefall to nowhere land, plus some dubious team calls, crew fumbles, and other noticeable cock-ups triggers too many questions.

As a McLaren F1 fan, I care nothing for their Extreme E involvement, ditto Formula E, GT3, GT4, IndyCar, and WEC programmes – I want F1 success again for My Team like we used to have when we won 20 F1 Titles and 183 Grand Prix victories.

The crumbs we have from the F1 table now are hard to swallow for a generation of fans used to serial winning by their team, and if the past provides a template on how to do things right and how to do them wrong, then McLaren were the humungous force under Ron Dennis because the focus was 110% on the F1 team.

A time when nothing else mattered but F1 for our team, which meant many wins at the pinnacle of the sport. Then Ron went mental and decided to conquer the world with road cars, Le Mans…etc.

Taking the eye off the ball – the F1 Ball – in retrospect led to the demise of McLaren as the mightiest F1 team of the times. They took the eye off the main prize and are forever paying the price. Sadly those lessons have not been learnt and for some of us Boomers, there’s the deja vu of more misery looming.

Last thing McLaren need is another nine-year wait for a victory – Daniel winning at Monza was cool, but an anomaly, which makes our last real win, Jensen Button’s victory (!) at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. The most barren spell in our illustrious history.

From a McLaren fan to the decision-makers of the team I supported since the late seventies: “Please Zak, focus on F1. Let’s win there again as we used to, anything less does not matter.”