In a recent interview, McLaren‘s former head of communications, Matt Bishop, recalled those dark, dreadful days at the end of 2007 in the wake of Spygate.
Fined $100m, excluded from the championship standings and its reputation in tatters, Bishop admits that there were serious concerns regarding the team’s survival.
However, the following season got off to the best possible start, with Lewis Hamilton winning the opening race and going on to win the title.
While that win in Melbourne in March, and the subsequent title win, lifted the Woking outfit out of the despondency of late 2007, one wonders what it will take to lift morale as the team’s current nightmare continues.
After three dreadful seasons with Honda, things have been little better this year with Renault, the Woking team having done enough in the opening few rounds to keep it ahead of a Racing Point Force India which only contested the final nine races, and an ever-improving Sauber.
Zak Brown, the man charged with steering the team through these deeply troubling times, while admitting to the current malaise, insists that things will get better.
“I think we’re now on the road to recovery,” he tells the official F1 website. “As I tell the men and women at McLaren, it’s going to feel good before it looks good.
“Meaning that they’re doing some great work now but until you see the race car on the track so I think it kind of feels good inside McLaren,” he explains, sort of.
“Development is going well, teamwork, collaboration, communication, responsibilities, all those things that we fell short of are now going well,” he insists. “But until that race car hits the track that’s the ultimate measurement and that’s when everyone will be able to visibly see what type of improvement over the winter.
“I certainly think this year is a low spot, and this era is a low spot, in McLaren history,” he admits, “and working hard to be on the road to recovery now. But it takes some time.”
Which of course begs the question, how much time does one need?
“We’re very happy with Renault,” he says. “We have a very good relationship with them. I got my report on how next year’s power unit is coming along and that’s very encouraging. They’ve given us a reliable engine this year and so it’s going well we’re happy with the decision that we’ve made, we’re very happy with Renault, I think we’ll benefit from having two teams on the grid next year, so they’ll be focused on ourselves and themselves, and excited to have a long term future with them.”
Thwarted in its attempts to get Toro Rosso technical director James Key on board sooner rather than later, the Briton will have no impact on the MCL34, though Brown is looking forward to his arrival.
“James will be with us next year,” he says. “You’d rather have James working for us now than not, obviously. We’ve recruited him because he’s immensely talented. However we knew that that was going to be the case and think that Pat Fry, Andrea Stella and the whole design team are working really well together.
“This is a part of the recovery journey and with that is getting the right people in place and that doesn’t happen overnight so we’re excited for him to start but he’s had no input or communication that relates to the 2019 car.”