McLaren executive director Zak Brown feels the team actually benefited from the difficult Honda partnership as it allowed certain team members to stand out.
Since Honda returned to Formula 1 in 2015, McLaren has failed to score a podium and has twice finished ninth in the constructors’ championship. Last season proved the final straw as McLaren and Honda ended its partnership early, but Brown still sees positives from the final season despite agreeing to a deal to use Renault power units from 2018 onward.
“I think it was a fun year,” Brown told RACER. “It’s easy when it’s easy. The challenge is when things are tough, so I think we’ve made some changes and those are people we didn’t think had the belief that the majority of us do on where we can take the team. So I think it’s helped make the stars rise to the top because when things are difficult you can see who is good or bad.
“When things are great, complacency can set in at an organization. We’ve been fighting for a long time now and I think it’s been really healthy for the team. I’d rather be dealing with complacency and winning four championships in a row but I think this is going to make us hungrier. So in that sense I think it’s been positive. It’s got everyone to step up.”
While Brown acknowledges McLaren’s true performance was masked somewhat due to the lack of competitiveness from the Honda power unit, he says the team had already been struggling prior to 2015 and has been working hard to rectify its weaknesses.
“It was good because the amount of pressure on everyone has been intense because we’ve been scrapping for every last tenth. We like that there’s no place to hide, we don’t want to hide, we want to go motor racing. We’re McLaren, we want to get out there and mix it up.
“The last three years wasn’t designed to hide, it just happened. But people need to remember that our decline started in our last two years of the Mercedes relationship too. OK in our three years [with Honda] we kind of fell off a cliff, yes we had some podiums but we haven’t won a race since 2012.”