McLaren has finally ended speculation about its driver lineup for the 2015 Formula One World Championship, announcing today it has signed former Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso to drive alongside existing recruit Jenson Button. Sadly for Kevin Magnussen, who drove for McLaren during the 2014 season, the Danish driver has been demoted to the role of reserve driver.
Today’s announcement means the Bahrain government-owned team will have one of the oldest pairings in the sport, with the younger of the two drivers, Alonso, set to turn 34 midway during the coming season. The Spaniard previously drove for McLaren during the 2007 season but quit after one year; he never appeared to gel with the team and was soon overshadowed by his teammate at the time, Lewis Hamilton.
The 2015 season is a major one for McLaren, which has failed to achieve any significant success in Formula One since Hamilton scored the Drivers’ Championship with the squad during the 2008 season. This coming season, McLaren will have two former world champions driving for it, plus a brand new power unit developed by Honda.
McLaren and Honda have already formed one of the most dominant partnerships in motorsport history: Honda broke new ground in the 1980s by creating a turbocharged engine that was unparalleled in both its output and its efficiency, and, between 1988 and 1992, using Honda power, McLaren won eight world championships and 44 grands prix, and took 53 pole positions and set 30 fastest laps, all in just 80 grands prix.
In 1988, the partnership created arguably the single most successful Formula One car of all time: the all-conquering McLaren-Honda MP4/4, which was driven to victory by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in an amazing 15 of the season’s 16 grands prix.
It is against that backdrop that McLaren and Honda are now committing to rebuilding their respective reputations in the sport. Testing of McLaren’s 2015 Formula One car with Honda’s power unit recently got underway. “I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference,” Fernando Alonso said at today’s announcement. “I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with—that kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula One, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honored to join, to take part in the next Formula One World Championship."