By Alan Baldwin
WOKING, England (Reuters) – McLaren trumpeted the dawning of a new era on Friday as they unveiled a striking orange and black Formula One car that harked back to the team’s 1960s roots and broke with the immediate past.
The Honda-powered former champions have not won a race since 2012, finishing sixth last year, but are aiming to get back on the podium with Spaniard Fernando Alonso and Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne.
“We will win again,” said Racing Director Eric Boullier.
Whether they can do so this season, with champions Mercedes dominant for the past three years and Red Bull and Ferrari also well ahead in the pecking order, remains to be seen.
Alonso, world champion with Renault in 2005 and 2006, said he was 100 percent committed but recognized might be a step too far this year.
“We are all realistic, myself first, knowing that last year we were 1.5 seconds off the pace in Abu Dhabi at the last race,” he said. “We need to recover a huge gap to win this year.
“Winning in F1 is extremely difficult but winning in Formula One after being sixth in the previous championship is something almost no-one did,” the 35-year-old said. “We need to work hard, cleverer than anyone else.”
Much has changed since last season, with former principal and shareholder Ron Dennis replaced as chief executive by American marketing expert Zak Brown.
“We’re going to get there,” said Brown. “This team is highly frustrated that we are not winning races … and once we get there, we’ll be pretty hard to knock back down.
The name of the car breaks with a long line carrying the prefix MP4 throughout the Dennis years, while the orange is a nod to the cars built by late founder Bruce McLaren.
“Our past is awesome and we must never forget our past,” said Brown. “It’s a natural progression that over time you hit the reset button.
“Just like when Bruce McLaren passed the torch to the MP4 era, now we have the MCL era.”
Speaking in the team’s futuristic headquarters, Brown summed up the change.
“The MTC (McLaren Technical Centre) is kind of like Star Wars,” he said, with a nod to that film’s villain and hero. “We’ve made it a little bit too Darth Vader over the years and we’ll have a little bit more Luke Skywalker next.”
(Editing by Louise Ireland)