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McLaren will be getting a new engine for 2015 when Honda re-enters Formula 1 as a supplier but will they be getting a new driver? That remains to be seen but some argue this could be Jenson Button’s last season with the Woking-based team.

Regardless of the rumors, team boss Eric Boullier says that all cards are on the table and McLaren owner Ron Denis even suggested they’d look at a return from Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso. Boullier, however, remains a little more cautious telling AUTOSPORT:

“If any driver becomes available on the market, we will be interested to see if they fit,” Boullier said.

“Our strategy, and I am not going to say we are going to change drivers, is we are in a position to wait.

“So we are going to wait until I understand what is going to be the driver market, not only for next year but also in the future years.

“The plan is to build McLaren for a long term at the top, and we need to know what we are going to do in three, four or five years.”

That doesn’t sound like a long-term plan with Jenson Button to be honest but then it doesn’t sound like a deal that many drivers would sign to be honest. A five year deal is an eternity in Formula 1 and while drivers like a 2-3 year commitment with options, a 5-year deal would most likely have serious caveats and exits clauses embedded.

Building a long-term driver program around a new engine and chassis design for the life of these new regulations is a noble cause but Button may not be a part of that equation. Another question might be centered on the thought of Kevin Magnussen staying that long as well.

If they could get Hamilton or Alonso, that time frame would work given their ages. In Alonso’s case it would be a retirement contract that would see out the remainder of his career and Hamilton would be returning to the team that gave him his big break.

Is there a better long-term driver combination you can think of for McLaren’s aspirations? Would Vettel, Hulkenberg, Bottas or even Ricciardo be a good fit?

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • dude

    The question you should ask is: what driver would want to jump in at this stage? Car is unproven and they don’t know how successful the package with Honda will be initially. It’s safe to say none of the big name drivers will. Hamilton made a smart move, which was to let Nico do the load of work and jump in to reap the profit at the opportune time. Alonso probably is willing, but Ron won’t let him back. That leave Kimi after he gets replaced by Bianchi next year. But if I was Ron I wouldn’t take either for the long term interest (one required an instant title, which is not possible for McLaren at this point, the other required money for commitment).

    They need to find young and hungry guys that will stick out for the long game, they need to find another pair of Hakkinen and Coulthard. The obvious answer here is get Hulkenberg, and keep Magnessun.

  • Paul

    If Hulk and K-Mag are going to fill Mika/David roles, which one will be the bottom bitch?

    Lewis would be insane to move to McLaren. Which is exactly what I said about his move to Merc, so clearly I know nothing.

    • dude

      Well, in various interviews with Coulthard he states he was happy with his #2 position and the level of contribution he puts in. It’s depended on the how Ron wants the team to be, he has been there and done that, no reason why they can’t have two fast competing guys like Senna and Prost. Magnussen has already shown that he isn’t afraid of the more experienced teammate.

  • jonnowoody

    This one’s easy – Jarno Trulli; Boy, that man knows how to keep people behind him in a slow car.

  • From a technical perspective I wouldn’t be too swift to write off McLaren for next season for several reasons but mainly due to Honda.

    The difference in powerunits in 2014 is not vast but significant and whilst the manufacturers can make significant changes the homologation rules are the same for everyone (meaning Mercedes HPP will be working hard to maintain their advantage). The most significant change for 2015 is variable inlet lengths something Honda know a thing or two about and for me is perhaps the biggest reason they didn’t enter for 2014 and buy McLaren out of their Merc contract.

    It’ll also be interesting to see just how much resource sharing that Honda provide to McLaren as I’m quite sure even if it was at a base level the boys in Japan have retained a skeleton staff to R&D chassis development since 2009 (much like Toyota have done too). Something that being on the periphery can be good for, as out of the box/fresh thinking can be achieved without the distraction of chasing others developments (convergence). The other interesting element is that on the periphery they could work without the CFD/Wind Tunnel restrictions that McLaren work under, simply passing them the ideas under the table to work on in their own programme.

    In terms of drivers their opportunities are quite narrow IMO even if Honda have implied they’re happy to splash the cash to entice a top driver. The only remote possibility would be Alonso, who’s under contract until 2016 but could use a performance clause IF Williams finish ahead of Ferrari. The problem with that is just how long can McLaren afford to wait to sign a driver on the possibility it might not actually happen. For me their best bet would be either Nico Hulkenberg who Force India have him under contract until the end of next season (from memory), they (SFI) can be bought. The problem for Nico is he is still unproven in a top car and has yet to climb onto the podium. The other option would be Valtteri although getting him from Williams may well cost them a few £££’s. Jenson is on a year by years rolling contract so McLaren don’t have to retain him and IF they decide to change drivers will likely oust him and retain Kevin.

    • I’ll echo your comment in that regardless of which driver they get, I wouldn’t be quick to write McLaren off. I think the Honda combination will be a good one and the folks at Woking know what the heck they are doing. McLaren isn’t in this to toil around as an also-ran. They will be there and finding the right driver will complete this new look going forward. I think their driver selection is really critical now.

    • Rik

      While Honda has experience with a turbo charge V6, Indy car, they have ZERO successful experience with an F1 chassis which at the moment, McLaren doesn’t either. Putting a possibly superstar engine in the McLaren might help on the straights, it won’t do squat elsewhere for them.

      Williams are lucky that they made a good chassis and got the Mercedes engine at the same time. McLaren like Williams have the same engine so their lack of shinning is down to chassis and the people who design/run the team… WHICH Mercedes systematically hired away from McLaren..

      Mercedes are not dominate because they passe everyone on the straights, they pass in the turns as well. They took a large page out of RB’s book and read it well.

      So with reality sitting in, who would want to do another Sergio Perez with McLaren? It would take a person like JV who is willing to take large amounts of money to be at the team as they are not going anywhere fast even with a Honda engine. Remember, Mercedes was winning sparcely in 2012 and then a little bit more in 2013 before they predicted they would dominate 2014. McLaren isn’t even close in 2014 to being where Mercedes as in 2012 so they are going to need a driver willing to wait several years and meanwhile RB and others are not going to be sitting idle, now, nor in the future.

  • Forrest

    I don’t think Simon is going to become a McLaren driver, but you can read into this whatever you want.

    http://www.racer.com/f1/item/106968-f1-indycar-s-pagenaud-closing-in-on-honda-test

  • Dave

    With Eric Boullier in, i think Grosjean would be a phenomenal fit. He was super quick in the latter part of 2013 and was the only one able to take it to vettel and webber. Seems like a no brainer to me!

    • Rik

      Seeing how nationalistic everyone is, combined with Grosjean’s comments of late, I think you are CORRECT. Grojean is actually a good racer, post head doc’, and he would be of value to McLaren but does he want to be in that chassis?