It may be early in the season but this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix could be make or break for McLaren.
The Woking team have had an odd start to their season, as the under-developed MCL33 has struggled in qualifying, leaving drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne way down the grid, but has been good enough in races to leave them fourth in the constructor’s standings.
A “radical” upgrade package has been promised for this weekend, including new designs for the nose, wings and sidepods.
The overhaul will result in a B-spec car, which McLaren say was how the car was originally envisioned and the team will hope it can bridge the gap between themselves and Renault stable mates Red Bull.
Red Bull are the yard stick by which McLaren are aiming to measure themselves but so far there has been a yawning chasm between the teams.
McLaren need to be competing at the top end of the grid for numerous reasons so the Spanish Grand Prix could be a make or break weekend for their season.
One of these reasons is the future of Fernando Alonso.
Alonso remains one of the most talented drivers on the grid and has managed to extract the most from the MCL33, including dragging what he later described as a “destroyed” car to a respectable seventh place in Azerbaijan just under a fortnight ago.
Alonso has been vocally critical over the last three years of underperforming with the Honda engine but has so far seemed patient, but that won’t last forever.
The Spaniard is out of contract at the end of the season, and will not be short of suitors should he decide to jump ship from an underperforming McLaren.
Alonso would play a key part in a revived McLaren, with his racing prowess crucial to the team’s hopes of challenging for podiums and race wins.
The team will also need to be challenging for a higher place in the constructors championship than in recent years to claim a larger cut of the prize money.
It is no secret that the McLaren is comparatively bear of sponsors, and hasn’t had a title sponsor since the deal with Vodafone expired at the end of 2013.
Returning to the sharp end will also be a matter of pride for the team.
McLaren is the second most decorated constructor behind Ferrari, with a long and successful history in the sport, with the McLaren name carrying a huge amount of weight in the sport.
Getting this venerable name back to the front of the grid is the task that current CEO Zak Brown has made his main goal and this weekend could be the first step towards that.
Or it could be the latest misstep.