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With Honda out of the equation, 2018 was supposed to be the start of McLaren's return to the top - but the absence of the Japanese manufacturer just revealed more fundamental issues at the team.
It is one of the time-worn tropes of Hollywood storytelling, and a pillar of the classical three-act structure, that the hero of the piece must at some point be sorely tested and laid low. Whether delivered to rock bottom by accident or his own hubris, our hero then dusts themselves down, and through some form of equally challenging self-improvement proceeds towards the resolution.
You might have thought that McLaren reached its nadir in 2015, when the team's much-vaunted new relationship with Honda delivered little in the manner of results, but plenty in the way of festering rancour. Then, after brief glimmers of hope in '16, '17 proved similarly wretched, costing the head of long-time figurehead Ron Dennis. But surely by '18 McLaren would at least be angling towards the proceedings of the third act… The marriage with Honda had been annulled, a new relationship with Renault set in train. The sunlit uplands were in sight.
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