Formula One’s worst-kept secret has at last been realised, with confirmation that Fernando Alonso is rejoining McLaren.
The Spaniard will spearhead the Woking squad’s renewed collaboration with Honda, whilst Jenson Button has been retained, following much deliberation over the Briton and his 2014 team-mate, Kevin Magnussen.
Alonso returns to McLaren seven years after his sole, acrimonious 2007 campaign, having failed to add to his 2005 & 2006 titles throughout his five-year Ferrari tenure.
Button – the 2009 World Champion, will embark on his sixth campaign with the outfit – his sixteenth in the sport, with the line-up mirroring Ferrari in boasting a champion on either side of the garage.
The result of this announcement is a combined 500 Grands Prix in experience. Taking into account McLaren’s recent campaigns, coupled with the conclusion of a two-decade partnership with Mercedes in favour of Honda, the decision can’t be frowned upon.
Ron Dennis – utilising his finest, infamous Ronspeak, remarked “we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team.”
It’s certainly a more compelling notion than Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen on the basis of their most recent campaigns and immediate prospects of flourishing in the abyss which Maranello currently represents.
There will be those who claim that Kevin Magnussen is desperately unlucky, that the Dane might be – he was until recently viewed as a certainty to stay on next season, yet it may just transpire to be the best outcome.
It takes time for relationships – regardless of history, to blossom. The McLaren-Honda combination which dominated the sport a quarter of a century ago bares no relevance to today. There are no guarantees that the initial McLaren-Honda output will yield an improvement on the MP4-29. A second campaign for Magnussen at the wheel of a handful could have been detrimental to his long-term prospects, on a personal and prospective employer level.
His retention as a test and reserve driver could be perceived as a token gesture, but the reality is that he’s a solid chance to regain a race seat in 2016. Button could well be content that the extra season his second unexpected reprieve has granted, and decide the time is right for a WEC switch. As for Alonso – he’d never depart McLaren after one season, surely? Yet, it did happen last time, so…
Ostensibly, the issues which plagued the Spaniard’s initial stint at Woking have been addressed to a manageable degree otherwise he’d never have made the return which appeared so inconceivable just months ago.
Whether this entails Ron Dennis taking a step back from day to day operations of the racing division once more, or whether both individuals have agreed to let not past differences affect the future vision for restoring McLaren to glory, will be known in relatively short order.
Pending Caterham’s presence on the grid in 2015, the line-ups for all confirmed outfits is now set.
MERCEDES: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg
RED BULL Renault: Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat
WILLIAMS Mercedes: Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa
FERRARI: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen
McLAREN Honda: Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button
FORCE INDIA Mercedes: Nico Hülkenberg, Sergio Perez
TORO ROSSO Renault: Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz (Jr)
LOTUS Mercedes: Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado
SAUBER Ferrari: Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr