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F1 2018 Pre-Season Report: McLaren

After ending their relationship with Honda, we assess McLaren’s hopes of returning to form in the 2018 Formula One season.

Ahead of the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season in Australia on March 25, we take a look at how each team is shaping up for the new campaign.

Here we assess whether McLaren can hope for improvement after a series of disappointing years.

HOW DID THEY PERFORM IN 2017?

It was a season to forget for McLaren, who recorded just four classified finishes from their two cars in the opening seven grands prix.

The car was dogged by reliability issues but star driver Fernando Alonso managed to finish the campaign with three successive point finishes.

However, the damage had been done and finishing ninth out of 10 in the constructors’ standing led to a split with engine supplier Honda.

THE 2018 LINE-UP

Fernando Alonso

One of the most talented drivers on the grid, Alonso would arguably have more than his two world titles had a move to McLaren in 2014 not proved hugely unsuccessful. He will be busy this year as he juggles F1 and the World Endurance Championship as he continues his quest to complete the ‘Triple Crown’.

Stoffel Vandoorne

The 25-year-old Belgian showed signs of promise in his rookie year, with only Alonso’s strong finish to the campaign meaning he did not outscore his illustrious team-mate. Vandoorne showed plenty of potential at testing in Barcelona, particularly using the hypersoft tyres, which he will hope transfers to the 2018 season.

THE TO-DO LIST

– Eliminate small mistakes. A broken exhaust clip worth just £2 consigned Vandoorne to an entire testing session in the garage at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while a loose wheelnut sent Alonso spinning into the gravel on the opening day.

– Make a strong start. McLaren were always playing catch up after a string of abysmal performances in the early stages of 2017 and can ill afford a repeat if they are to push the teams behind Mercedes and Ferrari

HOW WILL THEY FARE?

It is difficult to gauge the pace McLaren will possess this season with a “substantial” upgrade package planned in time for Melbourne, but Alonso appears confident.

“What I don’t have is any reason to believe we are not going to be competitive,” he said in Barcelona. “We have an engine that is not an experiment.”