The sad reality of McLaren’s situation over the past two seasons is they failed to produce a car which was good enough for the two world champions they had hired to drive for them. Seldom have the efforts of two mega-talents like Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button been expending in the pursuit of so few points.
After an excruciating 2015 of slow and unreliable performance from Honda’s power unit, last season was at least somewhat more positive. Honda’s gains meant the MP4-31 was more reliable than its predecessor and able to compete for points more regularly. It also afforded fans like us a better chance to compare the abilities of two of the sport’s top drivers.
Alonso seemed to respond well to the car’s improvements in the second half of the season. Meanwhile Button was heading for retirement – something which seemed to have been reflected in his driving.
Single-lap pace has never been Button’s greatest strength so it came as little surprise to see Alonso win that fight emphatically: 22-11. In races it was much closer, Alonso prevailing by 11 to 10.
How this might have looked had these two drivers had a car worthy of their talents beneath them is a question we can’t answer. The tight scoreline between them in the races probably explains a lot of the mutual respect between these two champions. But it’s easy to stay friends when there isn’t a championship on the line.
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