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McLaren’s Zak Brown expects marked improvement with Renault engine

first_imgnews McLaren As Formula One prepares to take to the track for the first time in 2018 at the opening test in Barcelona on Monday, Zak Brown, the executive director of McLaren, has insisted that anything less than a marked improvement in performance from the British team would be unacceptable.McLaren have endured three woeful seasons with an unreliable and underpowered Honda engine. Having switched to Renault for this year they will be under intense scrutiny to prove at the Circuit de Catalunya that a return to the top end of the grid is possible from the very moment the MCL33 hits the track. Since Bruce McLaren first entered his team in an F1 race in 1966, they have gained 182 victories, 12 drivers’ championships and eight constructors’. However, their last drivers’ title was Lewis Hamilton’s in 2008 and they have not won a constructors’ since 1998. McLaren, once a powerhouse in F1, have not won a race since Jenson Button did so at Brazil in 2013, after which a slump has became a steep decline.Last year brought a drawn-out divorce from Honda and a new deal with Renault, whose power unit is not the best on the grid but did return wins for Red Bull. Having disposed of the engine problem, Brown and his team know this season they will have to answer for any shortcomings. “This is a big year,” he said. “Clearly we think we’ve got great drivers, a great team, a great power unit. The nice thing about Formula One is that people get to see how we’re doing live. There’s no hiding.”For the last three opening season tests, hopeful optimism quickly disappeared but it is present again for the next few days in Barcelona and Brown has made it clear he expects a good test to translate into results – competing with former rivals and the fellow Renault-engined team Red Bull is the target. “A disappointment would be not being further up the grid,” he said.“We expect to be fighting for podiums, whether that is the top step, second step or third step. Red Bull is the team that everybody will compare us to and the Renault team was getting very strong and they have got a great driver line-up so they are the obvious benchmarks. If you look where Renault finished, and what Red Bull did, and that’s including winning races, we have got to be there or thereabouts.” Read more Share via Email Read more Share on Messenger … we have a small favour to ask. 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We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on Facebook Share on WhatsApp Formula One Topics Reuse this content Support The Guardian Lewis Hamilton prepared for F1 rivalry with Sebastian Vettel to become spikier Share on Twitter Bernie Ecclestone urges Formula One to make bold switch to electric cars Motor sport Share on Pinterest Red Bull won three races last year and were third in the constructors’ championship. Catching them would be a huge step forward but Brown believes they can bridge the gap. “This team has won lots of world championships so we’re up for it. We will be one of the most-viewed teams. If everyone asked: ‘Who is the team that is going to have the biggest change?’ it would probably be McLaren. We know all eyes will be on us.”The team has previously been adamant that they had a fundamentally strong car, let down by the power unit, a claim that will face its sternest test in Barcelona. “We had a great chassis last year and everything is looking good in the development phase but the proof is in the pudding when you hit the track,” said Brown.The test will be of great import to McLaren’s No 1 driver, Fernando Alonso, who agreed to remain with the team for a further year on the basis that the car would be more competitive. Alonso made no secret of his frustration with Honda and has already agreed to compete in the full FIA World Endurance Championship season with Toyota in his bid to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, alongside his McLaren duties. How this year’s car performs in Barcelona may prove key to his future in F1. “What’s going to drive Fernando is how he feels about how he’s competing on track is going to drive his passion for how much longer he wants to do Formula One,” Brown said. Share on LinkedIn Since you’re here…last_img

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